Impact of frailty on short-term outcomes in patients undergoing transsphenoidal pituitary surgery

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Frailty, a state of decreased physiological reserve, has been shown to significantly impact outcomes of surgery. The authors sought to examine the impact of frailty on the short-term outcomes of patients undergoing transsphenoidal pituitary surgery.


Weighted data from the 2000–2014 National (Nationwide) Inpatient Sample were studied. Patients diagnosed with pituitary tumors or disorders who had undergone transsphenoidal pituitary surgery were identified. Frailty was determined using the Johns Hopkins Adjusted Clinical Groups (ACG) frailty-defining diagnoses indicator. Standard descriptive techniques and matched propensity score analyses were used to explore the odds ratios of postoperative complications, discharge dispositions, and costs.


A total of 115,317 cases were included in the analysis. Frailty was present in 1.48% of cases. The mean age of frail versus non-frail patients was 57.14 ± 16.96 years (mean ± standard deviation) versus 51.91 ± 15.88 years, respectively (p < 0.001). A greater proportion of frail compared to non-frail patients had an age ≥ 65 years (37.08% vs 24.08%, respectively, p < 0.001). Frail patients were more likely to be black or Hispanic (p < 0.001), possess Medicare or Medicaid insurance (p < 0.001), belong to lower-median-income groups (p < 0.001), and have greater comorbidity (p < 0.001). Results of propensity score–matched multivariate analysis revealed that frail patients were more likely to develop fluid and electrolyte disorders (OR 1.61, 95% CI 1.07–2.43, p = 0.02), intracranial vascular complications (OR 2.73, 95% CI 1.01–7.49, p = 0.04), mental status changes (OR 3.60, 95% CI 1.65–7.82, p < 0.001), and medical complications including pulmonary insufficiency (OR 2.01, 95% CI 1.13–4.05, p = 0.02) and acute kidney failure (OR 4.70, 95% CI 1.88–11.74, p = 0.01). The mortality rate was higher among frail patients (1.46% vs 0.37%, p < 0.001). Frail patients also demonstrated a greater likelihood for nonroutine discharges (p < 0.001), higher mean total charges ($109,614.33 [95% CI $92,756.09–$126,472.50] vs $56,370.35 [95% CI $55,595.72–$57,144.98], p < 0.001), and longer hospitalizations (9.27 days [95% CI 7.79–10.75] vs 4.46 days [95% CI 4.39–4.53], p < 0.001).


Frailty in patients undergoing transsphenoidal pituitary surgery is associated with worse postoperative outcomes and higher costs, indicating that state’s potential role in routine preoperative risk stratification.

ABBREVIATIONS CCI = Charlson Comorbidity Index; DI = diabetes insipidus; DVT = deep vein thrombosis; LOS = length of hospital stay; NIS = National (Nationwide) Inpatient Sample; PE = pulmonary embolism; SIADH = syndrome of inappropriate antidiuretic hormone secretion.

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Contributor Notes

Correspondence Gary L. Gallia: Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore, MD. WHEN CITING Published online February 22, 2019; DOI: 10.3171/2018.8.JNS181875.Disclosures The authors report no conflict of interest concerning the materials or methods used in this study or the findings specified in this paper.


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