Patients older than age 70 should be screened for physical frailty, a panel of experts recently recommended.
The panel, which represented an international group of medical organizations, including the American Medical Directors Association and the American Federation for Aging Research, met in December 2012 to define frailty, look at screening and treatment, and determine what patients should be screened. It reached the following consensus definition of frailty: "a medical syndrome with multiple causes and contributors that is characterized by diminished strength, endurance, and reduced physiologic function that increases an individual's vulnerability for developing decreased dependency and/or death."
The panel also determined that according to the available evidence, frailty could be prevented or treated with exercise, protein calorie supplementation, vitamin D, and reduced polypharmacy. Primary care physicians and geriatricians can use simple screening tests, including the FRAIL scale, the Cardiovascular Health Study Frailty Screening Measure, and the Clinical Frailty Scale, to identify patients who are frail or at risk for frailty, the panel said. The panel recommended such screening for all patients older than 70.
"To successfully combat frailty, our medical practice must be targeted, strong, and sustained," the panel concluded. "With the aging of our population, we cannot wait and must implement the screening and management of frailty into clinical practice worldwide."
The panel's recommendations appear in the June Journal of the American Medical Directors Association.