NYMC Faculty Publications

The Immense Heterogeneity of Frailty in Neurosurgery: A Systematic Literature Review

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Neurosurgical Review

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Second Department



The aim of this study was to review and analyze the neurosurgery body of literature to document the current knowledge of frailty within neurosurgery, standardizing terminology and how frailty is defined, including the different levels of frailty, while determining what conclusions can be drawn about frailty's impact on neurosurgical outcomes. While multiple studies on frailty in neurosurgery exist, no literature reviews have been conducted. Therefore, we performed a literature review in order to organize, tabulate, and present findings from the data to broaden the understanding about what we know from frailty and neurosurgery. We performed a PubMed search to identify studies that evaluated frailty and neurosurgery. The terms "frail," "frailty," "neurosurgery," "spine surgery," "craniotomy," and "neurological surgery" were all used in the query. We then organized, analyzed, and summarized the comprehensive frailty and neurosurgical literature. The literature contained 25 published studies analyzing frailty in neurosurgery between December 2015 and December 2018. Five of these studies were cranial neurosurgical studies, the remaining studies focused on spinal neurosurgery. Over 100,000 surgical cases were analyzed among the 25 studies. Of these, 18 studies demonstrated that increasing frailty was associated with increased rate of complications, 10 studies showed that frailty was associated with higher mortality rates, 11 studies demonstrated an association between frailty and increased hospital length of stay, and 5 studies noted that higher frailty was associated with discharge to a higher level of care. The current body of literature repeatedly demonstrates that frailty is associated with worse outcomes across the neurosurgical subspecialties.