Development of a novel frailty index to predict mortality in patients with end-stage liver disease

Jennifer C. Lai, Kenneth E. Covinsky, Jennifer L. Dodge, W. John Boscardin, Dorry L. Segev, John P. Roberts, Sandy Feng

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

153 Scopus citations


Cirrhosis is characterized by muscle wasting, malnutrition, and functional decline that confer excess mortality not well quantified by the Model for End-Stage Liver Disease (MELD) Sodium (MELDNa) score. We aimed to develop a frailty index to capture these extrahepatic complications of cirrhosis and enhance mortality prediction in patients with cirrhosis. Consecutive outpatients listed for liver transplantation at a single transplant center without MELD exceptions were assessed with candidate frailty measures. Best subset selection analyses with Cox regression identified subsets of frailty measures that predicted waitlist mortality (=death or delisting because of sickness). We selected the frailty index by balancing statistical accuracy with clinical utility. The net reclassification index (NRI) evaluated the %patients correctly reclassified by adding the frailty index to MELDNa. Included were 536 patients with cirrhosis with median MELDNa of 18. One hundred seven (20%) died/were delisted. The final frailty index consisted of: grip strength, chair stands, and balance. The ability of MELDNa and the frailty index to correctly rank patients according to their 3-month waitlist mortality risk (i.e., concordance-statistic) was 0.80 and 0.76, respectively, but 0.82 for MELDNa+frailty index together. Compared with MELDNa alone, MELDNa+frailty index correctly reclassified 16% of deaths/delistings (P = 0.005) and 3% of nondeaths/delistings (P = 0.17) with a total NRI of 19% (P < 0.001). Compared to those with robust frailty index scores (<20th percentile), cirrhotics with poor frailty index scores (>80th percentile) were more impaired by gait speed, difficulty with Instrumental Activities of Daily Living, exhaustion, and low physical activity (P < 0.001 for each). Conclusion: Our frailty index for patients with cirrhosis, comprised of three performance-based metrics, has construct validity for the concept of frailty and improves risk prediction of waitlist mortality over MELDNa alone. (Hepatology 2017;66:564–574).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)564-574
Number of pages11
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hepatology


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