Older adults with head and neck cancer have increased postoperative complications, longer hospital stays, and higher rates of mortality. Geriatric assessment (GA) provides a measure of overall health status and is preferable to using age alone for assessing fitness for surgery. We sought to determine whether a patient’s frailty as determined by a novel electronic GA is associated with outcomes after head and neck cancer (HNC) surgery.
We conducted a retrospective review of 159 patients aged 75 and older referred to the Geriatrics Service at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center for pre-operative evaluation prior to undergoing HNC surgery. All patients completed the electronic Rapid Fitness Assessment (eRFA) within 60 days prior to surgery. The accumulated geriatric deficit (AGD) score includes twelve domains from the eRFA with a point assigned for each domain in which there is a deficit and a final point related to comorbidities. Three other metrics were individually assessed: age, Karnofsky Performance Scale (KPS), and number of comorbidities. We utilized multivariable linear regression and t-tests to determine whether frailty is associated with longer length of hospital stay, 30-day intensive care unit (ICU) admission, and 30-day and 90-day postoperative mortality.
Patients with a higher AGD score spent more time in the hospital post-operatively (1.0 day increase per unit increase in AGD; 95% CI: 0.21-1.9; p = 0.015). Lower KPS was also associated with statistically significant longer length of stay (-2.70 day change per increasing index KPS; 95% CI: -4.30 – -1.00; days; p = 0.002), while age and comorbidity were not found to be statistically associated with length of stay. Higher AGD score remained significantly associated with longer length of stay on multivariable analysis (0.93 day increase per unit increase in AGD; 95% CI 0.15-1.71; p = 0.019). AGD was the only metric associated with increased risk of ICU admission (6.6 vs 5.0 geriatric deficits for those admitted vs not admitted to ICU; p = 0.024).
Frailty is associated with increased length of hospital stay and ICU admission in older adults with HNC undergoing surgery. GA can be used to counsel patients on the expected postoperative course.

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