Association of Routine Preoperative Frailty Assessment with 1-Year Postoperative Mortality

Patrick R. Varley, Dan Buchanan, Andrew Bilderback, Mary Kay Wisniewski, Jason Johanning, Joel B. Nelson, Jonas T. Johnson, Tamra Minnier, Daniel E. Hall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Importance: Patient frailty is a known risk factor for adverse outcomes following surgery, but data are limited regarding whether systemwide interventions related to frailty are associated with improved patient outcomes. Objective: To evaluate whether a frailty screening initiative (FSI) is associated with reduced late-term mortality after elective surgery. Design, Setting, and Participants: This quality improvement study with an interrupted time series analysis used data from a longitudinal cohort of patients in a multihospital, integrated health care system in the US. Beginning in July 2016, surgeons were incentivized to measure frailty with the Risk Analysis Index (RAI) for all patients considering elective surgery. Implementation of the BPA occurred in February 2018. The cutoff for data collection was May 31, 2019. Analyses were conducted between January and September 2022. Exposures: The exposure of interest was an Epic Best Practice Alert (BPA) used to identify patients with frailty (RAI ≥42) and prompt surgeons to document a frailty-informed shared decision-making process and consider additional evaluation by a multidisciplinary presurgical care clinic or the primary care physician. Main Outcomes and Measures: The primary outcome was 365-day mortality after the elective surgical procedure. Secondary outcomes included 30-day and 180-day mortality as well as the proportion of patients referred for additional evaluation based on documented frailty. Results: A total of 50463 patients with at least 1 year of postsurgical follow-up (22722 before intervention implementation and 27741 after) were included (mean [SD] age, 56.7 [16.0] y; 57.6% women). Demographic characteristics, RAI score, and operative case mix, as defined by Operative Stress Score, were similar between time periods. After BPA implementation, the proportion of frail patients referred to a primary care physician and presurgical care clinic increased significantly (9.8% vs 24.6% and 1.3% vs 11.4%, respectively; both P <.001). Multivariable regression analysis demonstrated an 18% reduction in the odds of 1-year mortality (0.82; 95% CI, 0.72-0.92; P <.001). Interrupted time series models demonstrated a significant slope change in the rate of 365-day mortality from 0.12% in the preintervention period to -0.04% in the postintervention period. Among patients triggering the BPA, estimated 1-year mortality changed by -4.2% (95% CI, -6.0% to -2.4%). Conclusions and Relevance: This quality improvement study found that implementation of an RAI-based FSI was associated with increased referrals of frail patients for enhanced presurgical evaluation. These referrals translated to a survival advantage among frail patients of similar magnitude to those observed in a Veterans Affairs health care setting, providing further evidence for both the effectiveness and generalizability of FSIs incorporating the RAI..

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)475-483
Number of pages9
JournalJAMA Surgery
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 10 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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