Comparison of bedside screening methods for frailty assessment in older adult trauma patients in the emergency department

Published:April 14, 2018DOI:



      Frailty is linked to poor outcomes in older patients. We prospectively compared the utility of the picture-based Clinical Frailty Scale (CFS9), clinical assessments, and ultrasound muscle measurements against the reference FRAIL scale in older adult trauma patients in the emergency department (ED).


      We recruited a convenience sample of adults 65 yrs. or older with blunt trauma and injury severity scores <9. We queried subjects (or surrogates) on the FRAIL scale, and compared this to: physician-based and subject/surrogate-based CFS9; mid-upper arm circumference (MUAC) and grip strength; and ultrasound (US) measures of muscle thickness (limbs and abdominal wall). We derived optimal diagnostic thresholds and calculated performance metrics for each comparison using sensitivity, specificity, predictive values, and area under receiver operating characteristic curves (AUROC).


      Fifteen of 65 patients were frail by FRAIL scale (23%). CFS9 performed well when assessed by subject/surrogate (AUROC 0.91 [95% CI 0.84–0.98] or physician (AUROC 0.77 [95% CI 0.63–0.91]. Optimal thresholds for both physician and subject/surrogate were CFS9 of 4 or greater. If both physician and subject/surrogate provided scores <4, sensitivity and negative predictive value were 90.0% (54.1–99.5%) and 95.0% (73.1–99.7%). Grip strength and MUAC were not predictors. US measures that combined biceps and quadriceps thickness showed an AUROC of 0.75 compared to the reference standard.


      The ED needs rapid, validated tools to screen for frailty. The CFS9 has excellent negative predictive value in ruling out frailty. Ultrasound of combined biceps and quadriceps has modest concordance as an alternative in trauma patients who cannot provide a history.


      CFS9 (Clinical Frailty Scale), ED (emergency department), MUAC (mid-upper arm circumference), US (ultrasound), AUROC (area under receiver operating characteristic), AIS (abbreviated injury scale)


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