IMPORTANCE As the US population ages, the number of operations performed on elderly patients will likely increase. Frailty predicts postoperative mortality and morbidity more than age alone, thus presenting opportunities to identify the highest-risk surgical patients and improve their outcomes. OBJECTIVE To examine the effect of the Frailty Screening Initiative (FSI) on mortality and complications by comparing the surgical outcomes of a cohort of surgical patients treated before and after implementation of the FSI. DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS This single-site, facility-wide, prospective cohort quality improvement project studied all 9153 patients from a level 1b Veterans Affairs medical center who presented for major, elective, noncardiac surgery from October 1, 2007, to July 1, 2014. INTERVENTIONS Assessment of preoperative frailty in all patients scheduled for elective surgery began in July 2011. Frailty was assessed with the Risk Analysis Index (RAI), and the records of all frail patients (RAI score, 21) were flagged for administrative review by the chief of surgery (or designee) before the scheduled operation. On the basis of this review, clinicians from surgery, anesthesia, critical care, and palliative care were notified of the patient's frailty and associated surgical risks; if indicated, perioperative plans were modified based on team input. MAIN OUTCOMES AND MEASURES Postoperative mortality at 30, 180, and 365 days. RESULTS From October 1, 2007, to July 1, 2014, a total of 9153 patients underwent surgery (mean [SD] age, 60.3 [13.5] years; female, 653 [7.1%]; and white, 7096 [79.8%]). Overall 30-day mortality decreased from 1.6%(84 of 5275 patients) to 0.7%(26 of 3878 patients, P < .001) after FSI implementation. Improvement was greatest among frail patients (12.2% [24 of 197 patients] to 3.8% [16 of 424 patients], P < .001), although mortality rates also decreased among the robust patients (1.2%[60 of 5078 patients] to 0.3%[10 of 3454 patients], P < .001). Themagnitude of improvement among frail patients increased at 180 (23.9%[47 of 197 patients] to 7.7%[30 of 389 patients], P < .001) and 365 days (34.5%[68 of 197 patients] to 11.7%[36 of 309 patients], P < .001). Multivariable models revealed improved survival after FSI implementation, controlling for age, frailty, and predicted mortality (adjusted odds ratio for 180-day survival, 2.87; 95%CI, 1.98-4.16). CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE Implementation of the FSI was associated with reduced mortality, suggesting the feasibility of widespread screening of patients preoperatively to identify frailty and the efficacy of system-level initiatives aimed at improving their surgical outcomes. Additional investigation is required to establish a causal connection.
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