Failing frail elderly patients

8 October 2019

Frail patients aged 80 years old or more are over twice as likely to die in hospital than their non-frail counterparts, according to new research from The University of Queensland.

UQ Centre for Health Services Research geriatrician Professor Ruth Hubbard is concerned by current mortality rates for frail elderly patients in Intensive Care Units (ICU).

“We estimate 9000 frail patients aged over 80 years old are admitted to ICUs in Australia and New Zealand each year.

“Of that group, 1600 patients die in hospital and 450 are discharged into new nursing homes or chronic care,” Professor Hubbard said.

The findings have major implications for health care and community resource planning.

“Intensive care and community health care authorities need to consider that by 2030 more than one-quarter of patients in Australian ICUs will be aged 80 years and older.”

The study also shows frail people within this age bracket are also more likely to be discharged into a chronic care facility or new nursing home.   

“The risk of frail patients within this group being admitted to new residential care is 1.6 times greater than for those who are non-frail, suggesting that post-recovery impairment is greater for frail patients,” she said.

National healthcare systems have not kept up with the needs of our rapidly aging population or the high percentage of elderly patients who are frail and critically ill.

Professor Hubbard is urging health services authorities to implement routine screening to address gaps in our health care.

“Routine screening of older ICU patients could improve health outcomes for frail elderly patients, inform intensive care operators and assist in community health care planning,” she said.

This research is published in the Medical Journal of Australia (DOI: 10.5694/mja2.50329).

 Media: Professor Ruth Hubbard,; Faculty of Medicine Communications,, +61 7 3365 5118, +61 436 368 746.