Functional dependence versus frailty in gastrointestinal surgery: Are they comparable in predicting short-term outcomes?

Surgery. 2018 Dec;164(6):1316-1324. doi: 10.1016/j.surg.2018.06.007. Epub 2018 Jul 31.


Background: Frailty and functional dependence are important factors in assessing preoperative risk. No studies to date have compared frailty with functional dependence as a predictor of surgical outcomes. We sought to compare the impact of frailty and functional dependence on early outcomes after gastrointestinal surgery.

Methods: Patients who underwent gastrointestinal surgery were identified using the American College of Surgeons National Surgical Quality Improvement Program database (2012-2015). Propensity score matching analysis was used to separately match dependent and independent patients, and patients with modified frailty index <3 and modified frailty index ≥3 on baseline characteristics. Multivariable logistic regression analysis was used. Postoperative outcomes were compared.

Results: Of 765,082 patients, 1.71% were dependent and 1.49% had a modified frailty index score ≥3. Similar outcomes were observed in matched cohorts for those who were dependent and patients with a modified frailty index score ≥3: readmission (15.61% dependent and 15.75% modified frailty index ≥3), overall morbidity (37.91% and 34.81%), serious morbidity (19.06% and 17.06%), mortality (6.73% and 5.43%), and reoperation (7.01% and 6.48%). Dependent and modified frailty index ≥3 patients had similar odds of outcomes on adjusted multivariable logistic analysis and shared 3 of the top 5 indicators for readmission: complication of surgical procedure (11.46% dependent and 11.23% mFI ≥3), intestinal obstruction (10.70% and 7.65%), and organ space surgical site infection (7.93% and 8.65%). Comparable outcomes and reasons for readmission were also obtained for dependent patients and colectomy patients with a modified frailty index score ≥3.

Conclusion: Frailty and functional dependence are comparable in predicting postoperative outcomes after gastrointestinal surgery. Functional dependence should be considered an acceptable and practical alternative for preoperative risk stratification in a clinical setting.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living*
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Digestive System Surgical Procedures / rehabilitation*
  • Female
  • Frailty*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Readmission
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Assessment