Background: abnormal laboratory test results accumulate with age and can be common in people with few clinically detectable health deficits. A frailty index (FI) based entirely on common physiological and laboratory tests (FI-Lab) might offer pragmatic and scientific advantages compared with a clinical FI (FI-Clin).
Objectives: to compare the FI-Lab with the FI-Clin and to assess their individual and combined relationships with mortality and other adverse health outcomes.
Design and subjects: secondary analysis of the eight-centre, longitudinal European Male Ageing Study (EMAS) of community-dwelling men aged 40-79 at baseline. Follow-up assessment occurred 4.4 ± 0.3 (mean ± SD) years later.
Methods: we constructed a 23-item FI using common laboratory tests, blood pressure and pulse (FI-Lab), compared it with a previously validated 39-item FI using self-report and performance-based measures (FI-Clin) and finally combined both FIs to create a 62-item FI-Combined. Outcomes were all-cause mortality, institutionalisation, doctor visits, medication use, self-reported health, falls and fractures.
Results: the mean FI-Lab score was 0.28 ± 0.11, the FI-Clin was 0.13 ± 0.11 and FI-Combined was 0.19 ± 0.09. Age-adjusted models demonstrated that each FI was associated with mortality [HR (CI) FI-Lab: 1.04 (1.03-1.06); FI-Clin: 1.05 (1.04-1.06); FI-Combined: 1.07 (1.06-1.09)], institutionalisation, doctor visits, medication use, self-reported health and falls. Combined in a model with FI-Clin, the FI-Lab remained independently associated with mortality, institutionalisation, doctor visits, medication use and self-reported health.
Conclusions: the FI-Lab detected an increased risk of adverse health outcomes alone and in combination with a clinical FI; further evaluation of the feasibility of the FI-Lab as a frailty screening tool within hospital care settings is needed.
Keywords: ageing; frail older people; frailty; mortality; pre-clinical frailty.
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