Preoperative Evaluation of the Frail Patient

Anesth Analg. 2020 Jun;130(6):1493-1503. doi: 10.1213/ANE.0000000000004735.


Perioperative management of older adults is a complex field that is heavily influenced by the clinical heterogeneity of older adults. Frailty-a geriatric syndrome in which a patient is more vulnerable to stressors due to decreases in physical function and reserve-has been indicative of adverse postoperative outcomes. Many tools have been developed to measure frailty that incorporate a variety of factors including physical and cognitive function, comorbidities, self-reported measures of health, and clinical judgment. Most of these frailty assessment tools are able to identify a subset of patients at risk of adverse outcomes including postoperative complications, longer hospital length of stay, discharge to a higher level of care, and mortality. Frailty assessment before surgical interventions can also guide discussions among patients, their families, anesthesiologists, and surgeons to tailor operative plans for patients to mitigate this increased risk. Studies are ongoing to identify interventions in frail patients that can improve postoperative outcomes, but high-quality data in the form of randomized controlled trials are lacking at this time.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Cognition Disorders
  • Frail Elderly*
  • Frailty / surgery*
  • Geriatric Assessment / methods*
  • Humans
  • Length of Stay
  • Patient Discharge
  • Postoperative Complications / prevention & control*
  • Preoperative Care / methods*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • United States