Frailty is the medical term for becoming weaker or experiencing lower levels of activity/energy. Becoming frail as we age increases our risk for poor health, falls, disability, and other serious concerns. This can be especially true for older people facing surgery, up to half of whom are classified as frail.
Studies show that frail people may have a higher risk of complications, longer hospital stays, and a higher risk for death within 30 days of their surgery. This is a special concern when frail older adults face emergency surgery for abdominal conditions such as bleeding ulcers and bowel perforations (the medical term for developing a hole in the wall of your intestines). This is because there is no time to help someone facing emergency surgery get stronger before their procedure.
Right now, experts have information on how well frail people do within 30 days of surgery. However, they don't yet know how well frail older adults do 30 days later and beyond. This information is important so that healthcare providers can inform patients about risks and help them set expectations for recovery after surgery.
A new study in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society sought to gain more information about how frailty affects older adults in the months after surgery. The research team wanted to test their theory that these people would have a higher risk for death a year after surgery, have higher rates of being sent to long-term care facilities rather than to their homes, and have poorer health one year after surgery.
The research team used Medicare claims to measure frailty in patients 65 years old or older who had one of five types of emergency abdominal surgeries associated with the highest risk for death. These surgeries included emergency colon removal or surgical treatment of a bleeding stomach ulcer. The researchers assigned the patients to one of four groups: non-frail, pre-frail, mildly frail, and moderately to severely frail. Related Stories
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