Frailty and polypharmacy in elderly patients are associated with a high readmission risk

Elizabeth Emilie Rosted, Martin Schultz, Suzanne Sanders

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INTRODUCTION: Many acutely ill elderly people are frail and suffer from polypharmacy. They often present with nonspecific symptoms at hospital admission and are therefore often under-triaged and insufficiently treated resulting in adverse health outcomes. This study aimed to investigate the prevalence of polypharmacy and frailty and to identify if frailty and polypharmacy may predict adverse health outcomes in elderly patients who are acutely admitted to hospital.

METHODS: The study was a descriptive cohort study including patients ≥ 65 years acutely admitted to hospital during a 14-day period, n = 250. The included patients were assessed for frailty, and the total number of health problems requiring treatment, geriatric problems and medication were registered.

RESULTS: Frail patients suffering from polypharmacy had significantly more health problems, 13-fold longer hospital stays, they were more often discharged to nursing homes and had a five times greater risk of readmission than patients without frailty and polypharmacy. Polypharmacy was present in 62% and hyper-polypharmacy in 20% of the patients, and frailty was present in 85% of the patients with polypharmacy and in 40% of those without polypharmacy.

CONCLUSION: Compared with non-frail patients without polypharmacy, frail elderly patients with polypharmacy belong to a high-risk group and should receive an immediate geriatric assessment and treatment including long-term planning by the Mobile Geriatric Team.

FUNDING: none.

TRIAL REGISTRATION: The study was approved and registered with the Danish Data Protection Agency under the Capital Region of Denmark's joint notification of health research (j. no.: 2007-58-0015, AMH-2013-003, I-Suite no: 02495).

Original languageEnglish
Article numberA5274
JournalDanish Medical Journal
Issue number9
Number of pages6
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Accidental Falls
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Denmark
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Frail Elderly
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Nursing Homes
  • Patient Readmission
  • Polypharmacy
  • Prevalence
  • Journal Article

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