From the Journals

Frailty screening should be routine in endometrial cancer surgery



Endometrial cancer patients should be screened for frailty before hysterectomies, and frail patients should be counseled thoroughly about their increased risk for poor outcomes, according to a review of 144,809 cases in the Nationwide Readmissions Database.

Doctor holds clipboard at elderly patient's bedside. ©Wavebreakmedia Ltd/

Overall, 1.8% of the women were frail according to the Johns Hopkins Adjusted Clinical Groups (ACG) frailty indicator, which characterizes patients as frail or not based on diagnostic codes in a range of areas, including abnormal weight loss, dementia, urinary or fecal incontinence, difficulty walking, inadequate social support, and other matters.

Frailty was associated with an almost fourfold increased risk of intensive care after surgery; a more than twofold risk of inpatient mortality, and a 59% increased risk of something other than routine discharge to home. Frail patients were 33% more likely to be readmitted within 30 days and 21% more likely to be readmitted within 90 days, and they had a higher risk of dying on readmission. Hospital costs and lengths of stay were higher for frail women, according to the report, which was published online in Gynecologic Oncology.

The findings were adjusted for patient, hospital, and clinical factors, and the readmission outcomes were unchanged when limited to patients who had minimally invasive surgery.

Frailty is a well-known risk factor for poor surgical outcomes, so it “comes as little surprise” that it was associated with worse outcomes in hysterectomies for endometrial cancer. Even so, “frailty is oftentimes not screened for in oncology clinics” leading to “a large number of potentially unrecognized frail patients who are recommended to undergo surgery,” said investigators led by Tiffany Sia, MD, an obstetrics and gynecology resident at Columbia University, New York.

“We believe that each potential patient’s frailty status should be assessed during the preoperative period ... frail patients should be counseled regarding these risks in the perioperative setting,” Dr. Sia said in an interview.

“Researchers and clinicians have adopted the scoring instrument that corresponds best with the data they have available,” but “lack of a widely recognized gold standard or easily utilized diagnostic tool makes frailty rather difficult to formally assess in a clinical setting,” she said.

The investigators found a “surprisingly high rate” of frail patients (82%) who underwent total abdominal hysterectomies compared to less invasive options, with 16.5% undergoing extended procedures. The reason is unknown because stage, tumor grade, and histology – factors that likely influenced decision making – were not captured in the analysis.

However, almost half of the frail subjects were 70 years or older, and increasing age is associated with more aggressive tumor characteristics and worse prognosis.

The team said future research should integrate screening instruments into routine clinic workflow, but there have been a number of roadblocks. Current screening instruments are “cumbersome to use and difficult to implement ... as they typically require measurement of a frailty phenotype such as a timed up-and-go test or grip strength and require numerous patient surveys,” they added.

Proposed screening tools include the Frailty Index, Memorial Sloan Kettering–Frailty Index, Hopkins’ frailty indicator, and the Vulnerable Elders Survey, but no preferred method has emerged, and each scale captures different subpopulations of frailty and differs in its prognostic ability.

There was no external funding, and Dr. Sia didn’t have any disclosures.

Next Article: