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A growing number of frail older adults are treated in the emergency department (ED) and discharged home. There is an unmet need to identify older adults that are predisposed to functional decline and repeat ED visits so as to target them with proactive interventions.
A prospective cohort study was conducted in patients 75 years or older who were being discharged from the ED. The objective was to test the value of frailty screening tests, namely 5-meter gait speed and handgrip strength, to predict repeat ED visits at 1 and 6 months and functional decline at 1 month using multivariable logistic regression.
After excluding 7 patients lost to follow-up, 150 patients were available for analysis. The mean age was 81.1 ± 4.9 years with 51% females, 13% arriving by ambulance, and 67% having at least two comorbid conditions. At ED discharge, 41% of patients were found to have slow gait speed, whereas 23% had weak handgrip strength. After adjustment, only slow gait speed was independently associated with functional decline at 1 month (odds ratio [OR] 1.39 per 0.1 meters/second decrement, 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.12 to 1.72) and repeat ED visits at 6 months (OR 1.20 per 0.1 meters/second decrement, 95% CI, 1.01 to 1.42).
Gait speed can be feasibly measured at the time of ED discharge to identify frail older adults at risk for early functional decline and subsequent return to the ED. Conversely, grip strength was not found to be associated with functional decline or ED visits.
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