Older age is highly linked to mortality in COVID-19, but a study of hospitalized patients has shown that many older, multimorbid patients can survive the disease and that degree of frailty may better predict short-term survival than age in these patients.

Among 250 geriatric COVID-19 patients admitted to a Swedish hospital from March 1 to early June, investigators tracked in-hospital mortality and discharge to home. Despite a high prevalence of chronic health issues prior to contracting the disease, fully 76% of the patients survived and were sent home.

A score higher than five on the nine-point Clinical Frailty Scale was more associated with increased mortality in these patients than the patient’s age, reported lead author Sara Hägg, Ph.D., of the Karolinska Institute. (A frailty score of six on the scale means that the individual requires help with all outside activities, home tasks and bathing.)

Frailty is a relatively new concept that helps measure functional level before acute illness. Hägg and colleagues plan to look into other factors that may have an effect on short-term and long-term COVID-19 survival, such as underlying medical conditions and health biomarkers. In the meantime, the results may influence clinical recommendations regarding the care of older patients with COVID-19, they said.

“We can see that with the right treatment, many of our older and seriously ill patients survive. That is gratifying,” concluded the study’s initiator, Dorota Religa, M.D., Ph.D. 

Full findings of the peer-reviewed study are available in a JAMDA pre-proof.