FRAIL Questionnaire Screening Tool and Short-Term Outcomes in Geriatric Fracture Patients

J Am Med Dir Assoc. 2017 Dec 1;18(12):1082-1086. doi: 10.1016/j.jamda.2017.07.005. Epub 2017 Aug 31.


Objectives: There are limited screening tools to predict adverse postoperative outcomes for the geriatric surgical fracture population. Frailty is increasingly recognized as a risk assessment to capture complexity. The goal of this study was to use a short screening tool, the FRAIL scale, to categorize the level of frailty of older adults admitted with a fracture to determine the association of each frailty category with postoperative and 30-day outcomes.

Design: Retrospective cohort study.

Setting: Level 1 trauma center.

Participants: A total of 175 consecutive patients over age 70 years admitted to co-managed orthopedic trauma and geriatrics services.

Measurements: The FRAIL scale (short 5-question assessment of fatigue, resistance, aerobic capacity, illnesses, and loss of weight) classified the patients into 3 categories: robust (score = 0), prefrail (score = 1-2), and frail (score = 3-5). Postoperative outcome variables collected were postoperative complications, unplanned intensive care unit admission, length of stay (LOS), discharge disposition, and orthopedic follow-up after surgery. Thirty-day outcomes measured were 30-day readmission and 30-day mortality. Analysis of variance (1-way) and Kruskal-Wallis tests were used to compare continuous variables across the 3 FRAIL categories. Fisher exact tests were used to compare categorical variables. Multiple regression analysis, adjusted by age, sex, and Charlson index, was conducted to study the association between frailty category and outcomes.

Results: FRAIL scale categorized the patients into 3 groups: robust (n = 29), prefrail (n = 73), and frail (n = 73). There were statistically significant differences between groups in terms of age, comorbidity, dementia, functional dependency, polypharmacy, and rate of institutionalization, being higher in the frailest patients. Hip fracture was the most frequent fracture, and it was more frequent as the frailty of the patient increased (48%, 61%, and 75% in robust, prefrail, and frail groups, respectively). The American Society of Anesthesiologists preoperative risk significantly correlated with the frailty of the patient (American Society of Anesthesiologists score 3-4: 41%, 82% and 86%, in robust, prefrail, and frail groups, P < .001). After adjustment by age, sex, and comorbidity, there was a statistically significant association between frailty and both LOS and the development of any complication after surgery (LOS: 4.2, 5.0, and 7.1 days, P = .002; any complication: 3.4%, 26%, and 39.7%, P = .03; in robust, prefrail, and frail groups). There were also significant differences in discharge disposition (31% of robust vs 4.1% frail, P = .008) and follow-up completion (97% of robust vs 69% of the frail ones). Differences in time to surgery, unplanned intensive care unit admission, and 30-day readmission and mortality, although showing a trend, did not reach statistical significance.

Conclusions: Frailty, measured by the FRAIL scale, was associated with increase LOS, complications after surgery, and discharge to rehabilitation facility in geriatric fracture patients. The FRAIL scale is a promising short screen to stratify and help operationalize the perioperative care of older surgical patients.

Keywords: Frailty; delirium; fall; fracture; older adult.

MeSH terms

  • Accidental Falls / statistics & numerical data
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Fracture Fixation, Internal / methods
  • Fracture Fixation, Internal / mortality*
  • Fracture Healing / physiology*
  • Frail Elderly / statistics & numerical data*
  • Geriatric Assessment / methods
  • Humans
  • Length of Stay
  • Male
  • Mass Screening / methods
  • Osteoporotic Fractures / diagnostic imaging
  • Osteoporotic Fractures / epidemiology*
  • Osteoporotic Fractures / surgery*
  • Patient Readmission / statistics & numerical data
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Assessment
  • Surveys and Questionnaires*
  • Time Factors
  • Trauma Centers
  • Treatment Outcome