Frailty Cost: Economic Impact of Frailty in the Elective Surgical Patient.

Document Type


Publication Date



Surgery, Internal Medicine, Oncology

Journal Title

Journal of the American College of Surgeons

MeSH Headings

Humans, Frailty, Elective Surgical Procedures, Patients, Aged, Frail Elderly


BACKGROUND: Frailty in the surgical patient has been associated with increased morbidity, mortality, and failure to rescue. However, there is little understanding of the economic impact of frailty.

STUDY DESIGN: A prospective database of elective surgery patients at an academic medical center was used to create a modified version of the Risk Analysis Index (RAI), a validated frailty index. This included 10,257 patients undergoing elective operations from 2016 to 2017. Patients were classified as not frail (RAI = 0), somewhat frail (RAI = 1 to 10), or significantly frail (RAI > 10). Cost, revenue, and income data were procured from the finance department. Univariate and multivariate analyses were performed.

RESULTS: Frail patients were more likely to be older (65 years vs 50 years; p < 0.001) and inpatient (19% vs 36%; p < 0.001). General surgical, gynecologic, urologic, and cardiothoracic services operated on a higher percentage of significantly frail patients compared with orthopaedic, neurosurgical, and vascular (p < 0.001). On univariate analysis, frail patients were more likely to die (0% vs 0.4%; p < 0.001) and have increased length of stay (0.8 vs 2.1 days; p < 0.001), higher total cost ($6,934 vs $13,319), and lower net hospital income ($5,447 vs $3,129) (p < 0.001). On multivariate analysis, frailty was independently associated with increased direct cost (odds ratio [OR] 2.2; p < 0.001), indirect cost (OR 1.9; p < 0.001), total cost (OR 2.2; p < 0.001), and net income (OR 0.8; p < 0.001). Stratified by service line and inpatient vs outpatient status, frailty continued to be associated with increased direct cost, indirect cost, total cost, and decreased hospital income.

CONCLUSIONS: Although a significant number of data exist on the impact of frailty in the surgical patient, the economic impacts have only limited description in the literature. Here we demonstrate that frailty, independent of age, has a detrimental financial impact on cost and hospital income in elective surgery.



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