EClinicalMedicine. 2023 Apr 21;59:101947. doi: 10.1016/j.eclinm.2023.101947. eCollection 2023 May.
BACKGROUND: Guidelines recommend routine frailty screening for all hospitalised older adults to inform care decisions, based mainly on studies in elective or speciality-specific settings. However, most hospital bed days are accounted for by acute non-elective admissions, in which the prevalence and prognostic value of frailty might differ, and uptake of screening is limited. We therefore did a systematic review and meta-analysis of frailty prevalence and outcomes in unplanned hospital admissions.
METHODS: We searched MEDLINE, EMBASE and CINAHL up to 31/01/2023 and included observational studies using validated frailty measures in adult hospital-wide or general medicine admissions. Summary data on the prevalence of frailty and associated outcomes, measurement tools, study setting (hospital-wide vs general medicine), and design (prospective vs retrospective) were extracted and risk of bias assessed (modified Joanna Briggs Institute checklists). Unadjusted relative risks (RR; moderate/severe frailty vs no/mild) for mortality (within one year), length of stay (LOS), discharge destination and readmission were calculated and pooled, where appropriate, using random-effects models. PROSPERO CRD42021235663.
FINDINGS: Among 45 cohorts (median/SD age = 80/5 years; n = 39,041,266 admissions, n = 22 measurement tools) moderate/severe frailty ranged from 14.3% to 79.6% overall (and in the 26 cohorts with low-moderate risk of bias) with considerable heterogeneity between studies (phet < 0.001) preventing pooling of results but with rates <25% in only 3 cohorts. Moderate/severe vs no/mild frailty was associated with increased mortality (n = 19 cohorts; RR range = 1.08-3.70), more consistently among cohorts using clinically administered tools (n = 11; RR range = 1.63-3.70; phet = 0.08; pooled RR = 2.53, 95% CI = 2.15-2.97) vs cohorts using (retrospective) administrative coding data (n = 8; RR range = 1.08-3.02; phet < 0.001). Clinically administered tools also predicted increasing mortality across the full range of frailty severity in each of the six cohorts that allowed ordinal analysis (all p < 0.05). Moderate/severe vs no/mild frailty was also associated with a LOS >8 days (RR range = 2.14-3.04; n = 6) and discharge to a location other than home (RR range = 1.97-2.82; n = 4) but was inconsistently related to 30-day readmission (RR range = 0.83-1.94; n = 12). Associations remained clinically significant after adjustment for age, sex and comorbidity where reported.
INTERPRETATION: Frailty is common in older patients with acute, non-elective hospital admission and remains predictive of mortality, LOS and discharge home with more severe frailty associated with greater risk, justifying more widespread implementation of screening using clinically administered tools.