The effect of frailty on short-term outcomes after head and neck cancer surgery

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45 Scopus citations


Objective: To determine the relationship between frailty and comorbidity, in-hospital mortality, postoperative complications, length of hospital stay (LOS), and costs in head and neck cancer (HNCA) surgery. Study Design: Cross-sectional analysis. Methods: Discharge data from the Nationwide Inpatient Sample for 159,301 patients who underwent ablative surgery for a malignant oral cavity, laryngeal, hypopharyngeal, or oropharyngeal neoplasm in 2001 to 2010 was analyzed using cross-tabulations and multivariate regression modeling. Frailty was defined based on frailty-defining diagnosis clusters from the Johns Hopkins Adjusted Clinical Groups frailty-defining diagnosis indicator. Results: Frailty was identified in 7.4% of patients and was significantly associated with advanced comorbidity (odds ratio [OR] = 1.5[1.3–1.8]), Medicaid (OR = 1.5[1.3–1.8]), major procedures (OR = 1.6[1.4–1.8]), flap reconstruction (OR = 1.7[1.3–2.1]), high-volume hospitals (OR = 0.7[0.5–1.0]), discharge to a short-term facility (OR = 4.4[2.9–6.7]), or other facility (OR = 5.4[4.5–6.6]). Frailty was a significant predictor of in-hospital death (OR = 1.6[1.1–2.4]), postoperative surgical complications (OR = 2.0[1.7–2.3]), acute medical complications (OR = 3.9[3.2–4.9]), increased LOS (mean, 4.9 days), and increased mean incremental costs ($11,839), and was associated with higher odds of surgical complications and increased costs than advanced comorbidity. There was a significant interaction between frailty and comorbidity for acute medical complications and length of hospitalization, with a synergistic effect on the odds of medical complications and LOS in patients with comorbidity who were also frail. Conclusion: Frailty is an independent predictor of postoperative morbidity, mortality, LOS, and costs in HNCA surgery patients, and has a synergistic interaction with comorbidity that is associated with an increased likelihood of medical complications and greater LOS in patients with comorbidity who are also frail. Level of Evidence: 2c. Laryngoscope, 128:102–110, 2018.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)102-110
Number of pages9
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2018


  • Frailty
  • Nationwide Inpatient Sample
  • comorbidity
  • complications
  • head and neck cancer
  • mortality
  • surgery

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology


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