Purpose of review: Research over the past few decades points to the importance of frailty, or the lack of physiologic reserve, in the natural history of chronic diseases and in modifying the impact of potential interventions. End-stage kidney disease (ESKD) and the intervention of kidney transplantation are no exception. We review the recent epidemiologic and cohort-based evidence on the association between frailty and kidney transplant outcomes and provide a framework of questions with which to approach future research endeavors and clinical practice.
Recent findings: Frailty in kidney transplant candidates can be measured in numerous ways, including descriptive phenotype, description scores, functional testing, and surrogate measures. Regardless of the metric, the presence of frailty is strongly associated with inferior pre- and posttransplant outcomes compared to the absence of frailty. However, some frail patients with ESKD can benefit from transplant over chronic dialysis. Evidence-based approaches for identifying frail ESKD patients who can benefit from transplant over dialysis, with acceptable posttransplant outcomes, are lacking. Interventional trials to improve frailty and physical function before transplant (prehabilitation) and after transplant (rehabilitation) are also lacking.
Conclusion: Frailty is increasingly recognized as highly relevant to peritransplant outcomes, but more work is needed to: 1) tailor management to the unique needs of frail patients, both pre- and posttransplant; 2) define phenotypes of frail patients who are expected to benefit from transplant over dialysis; and 3) develop interventions to reverse frailty, both pre- and post-transplant.
Keywords: Assessment; Frailty; Kidney transplant; Outcomes; Prehabilitation; Survival.