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Detecting frailty before disability sets in

Created date

July 14th, 2016
upper extremity frailty

Researchers at Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, and University of Arizona, Tucson, have found a quick and simple way to measure frailty in older adults. 

Frailty is a condition characterized by weight loss, weakness, and a lack of physical resiliency. If someone is frail, they are less likely to recover from surgery or trauma and more likely to have lasting disability. Validated methods for detecting and measuring frailty, the Trauma-Specific Frailty Index (TSFI) and the timed walking test, already exist, but they are time-consuming and require patients to answer questions or follow walking directions—both of which are often impractical or impossible in hospital situations. 

Upper extremity frailty

The new method developed by researchers employs wearable technology to assess signs of frailty, including slowness of motion, weakness, and exhaustion. Called the UEF system (for upper extremity frailty), it takes measurements in 20 seconds, which makes it useful for bed-bound patients. Validity tests showed that the UEF was as accurate as the gold-standard TSFI and that it was a useful substitute for timed walking tests.

The researchers say adults over age 65 undergo about one-third of all inpatient and outpatient procedures, and in the face of an aging population, accurate tools to predict the likelihood of adverse outcomes are vitally important in order to plan for discharge support services.