Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, people of advanced age have been noted to be more susceptible to the severe forms of Covid-19. In Brazil and other countries, immunization campaigns have followed age criteria when prioritizing the distribution of vaccines. But a study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, led by the clinical researcher at the Laboratory of Medical Research on Aging (LIM66) at the Hospital das Clínicas da Faculdade de Medicina da Universidade de São Paulo (HCFMUSP), Dr. Márlon Juliano Romero Aliberti, indicates that measuring the patient’s frailty may be a more reliable indicator of the death risk from the disease.
Frailty, in this case, refers to a clinical syndrome associated with normal aging, characterized by deterioration in the body's compensatory capacity, leading to involuntary weight loss, weakness and other manifestations. It’s important, however, to differentiate between frailty syndrome and aging: an elderly individual may be less frail than a younger one, for example. “Elderly people comprise a group of individuals with very different health characteristics”, says the researcher Dr. Aliberti. "These prior health differences, more so than chronological age, influence how people respond to the Covid-19 infection".
In order to carry out the study, 1,830 patients aged 50 years or older admitted for Covid-19 were analyzed, and there was a strong association between frailty and mortality over six months after the infection. In addition, the prior condition of the patients, according to this criterion, determined differences in the death risk from the disease in people with similar age and infection severity .
Therefore, the assessment of frailty, combined with symptoms of the infection’s severity, such as shortness of breath, drop in blood pressure, among others, can help health professionals to better predict risks related to Covid-19 and offer care more aligned with the needs of patients. "We can’t succumb to ageism and accept that choices about offering hospital resources to a given patient be made based on their chronological age," says Dr. Márlon Aliberti.