Several frailty screening tools have been shown to predict mortality and complications after surgery. However, these tools were developed for in-person evaluation and cannot be used during virtual assessments before surgery. The FRAIL (fatigue, resistance, ambulation, illness, and loss of weight) scale is a brief assessment that can potentially be conducted virtually or self-administered, but its association with postoperative outcomes in older surgical patients is unknown. The objective of this systematic review and meta-analysis (SRMA) was to determine whether the FRAIL scale is associated with mortality and postoperative outcomes in older surgical patients.
Systematic searches were conducted of multiple literature databases from January 1, 2008, to December 17, 2022, to identify English language studies using the FRAIL scale in surgical patients and reporting mortality and postoperative outcomes, including postoperative complications, postoperative delirium, length of stay, and functional recovery. These databases included Medline, Medline ePubs/In-process citations, Embase, APA (American Psychological Association) PsycInfo, Ovid Emcare Nursing, (all via the Ovid platform), Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature (CINAHL) EbscoHost, the Web of Science (Clarivate Analytics), and Scopus (Elsevier). The risk of bias was assessed using the quality in prognosis studies tool.
A total of 18 studies with 4479 patients were included. Eleven studies reported mortality at varying time points. Eight studies were included in the meta-analysis of mortality. The pooled odds ratio (OR) of 30-day, 6-month, and 1-year mortality for frail patients was 6.62 (95% confidence interval [CI], 2.80–15.61; P < .01), 2.97 (95% CI, 1.54–5.72; P < .01), and 1.54 (95% CI, 0.91–2.58; P = .11), respectively. Frailty was associated with postoperative complications and postoperative delirium, with an OR of 3.11 (95% CI, 2.06–4.68; P < .01) and 2.65 (95% CI, 1.85–3.80; P < .01), respectively. The risk of bias was low in 16 of 18 studies.
As measured by the FRAIL scale, frailty was associated with 30-day mortality, 6-month mortality, postoperative complications, and postoperative delirium.
- Question: Is frailty as assessed by the FRAIL (fatigue, resistance, ambulation, illness, and loss of weight) scale associated with mortality and postoperative outcomes in older surgical patients?
- Findings: Frailty as measured by the FRAIL scale was associated with 30-day mortality, 6-month mortality, postoperative complications, and postoperative delirium.
- Meaning: The FRAIL scale is a useful tool for preoperative screening for frailty of older adults before surgery.