Frail patients may have heightened risk of dysphagia, a potentially modifiable health factor. Our aim is to examine whether the relationship between dysphagia and adverse health outcomes differs by frailty conditions among inpatients ≥ 50 years of age. Medical or surgical hospitalizations among patients ≥ 50 years of age in the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project’s National Inpatient Sample from 2014 through the first three quarters of 2015 were included. Adverse outcomes included length of stay (LOS), hospital costs, in-hospital mortality, discharge status, and medical complications. Dysphagia was determined by ICD-9-CM codes. Frailty was defined as (a) ≥ 1 condition in the10-item Johns Hopkins Adjusted Clinical Groups (ACG) frailty measure and a frailty index for the (b) ACG and (c) a 19-item Frailty Risk Score (FRS) categorized as non-frail, pre-frail, and frail. Weighted generalized linear models for complex survey designs using generalized estimating equations were performed. Of 6,230,114 unweighted hospitalizations, 4.0% had a dysphagia diagnosis. Dysphagia presented in 3.1% and 11.0% of non-frail and frail hospitalizations using the binary ACG (p < 0.001) and in 2.9%, 7.9%, and 16.0% of non-frail, pre-frail, and frail hospitalizations using the indexed FRS (p < 0.001). Dysphagia was associated with greater LOS, higher total costs, increased non-routine discharges, and more medical complications among both frail and non-frail patients using the three frailty definitions. Dysphagia was associated with adverse outcomes in both frail and non-frail medical or surgical hospitalizations. Dysphagia management is an important consideration for providers seeking to reduce risk in vulnerable populations.
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