The Cost of Frailty in Complex Gastrointestinal Surgery

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The American surgeon


BACKGROUND: Frailty is a syndrome characterized by decreased physiologic reserve related with aging; it has been associated with increased costs of health care. Factors driving its economic impact remain poorly understood. We examine the association between frailty, complications, and costs in complex gastrointestinal surgery. METHODS: Retrospective review of a prospective database encompassing elective complex gastrointestinal operations from 2017 to 2018 at a tertiary care hospital. Patients were categorized into non-frail (NF): MFI 0, pre-frail (PF): MFI 1-2, and frail (FR): MFI >2 based on the 5-Factor Modified Frailty Index. Linear regression models were applied. RESULTS: 612 patients were included; 268 (44%) were NF, 325 (53%) were PF, and 19 (3%) were FR. The FR group had a longer length of stay (7.26 days) compared to NF (5.05 days) or PF (5.67 days) ( = 0.031). The average total cost of care for all patients was $19,413.06 (CI 18,297.13-20,528.98). The cost for NF was $17,648.54 (CI 15,969.18-19,327.9), PF $20,435.70 (CI 18,911.01-21,960.4, = .016), and FR patients was $26,809.36 (CI 20,511.9-33,106.81). A complication was observed in 91 patients (14.9%); of these, 76 (12.4%) were serious complications, as defined by NSQIP. There was no difference in incidence of complications (NF 14.93%, PF 14.46%, FR 21.05%, = .734). On average, a complication added $12,656.67 regardless of frailty category. DISCUSSION: Frail patients are more costly and have a longer length of stay than their more robust counterparts. Complications were the major driver of costs after complex gastrointestinal surgery regardless of frailty status.

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