Post-discharge consequences of protein-energy malnutrition, sarcopenia, and frailty in older adults admitted to rehabilitation: A systematic review

Hei Chun Nicholas Chan, Xinzhu Fei, Eden Long Yin Leung, Keanne Langston, Skye Marshall, Barbara Suzanne van der Meij*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


BACKGROUND & AIMS: Malnutrition, sarcopenia, and frailty are three prevalent wasting conditions among older rehabilitation patients that lead to multiple health-related negative outcomes. This systematic review and meta-analysis aimed to determine the post-discharge consequences of malnutrition, sarcopenia, and frailty in older adults admitted to inpatient rehabilitation.

METHODS: MEDLINE, Embase, Web of Science, and CINAHL databases were searched on 20 April, 2021 for longitudinal studies in older adults (≥65 years) admitted for inpatient rehabilitation. This systematic review included and synthesised studies that 1) measured malnutrition, sarcopenia, and/or frailty using a validated assessment tool or guideline; and 2) reported the association with post-discharge mortality, physical function, quality of life, or discharge location. The Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics Quality Criteria Checklist and GRADE criteria were used to assess risk of bias and evidence certainty. Where possible, data were pooled using Revman.

RESULTS: Twenty-six observational studies (n = 9709 participants in total) with similarly aged populations were included. Eight, seven, and eleven studies assessed malnutrition, sarcopenia, and frailty, respectively. Follow-up periods ranged from immediate to 7 years post-rehabilitation. Malnutrition was associated with discharge to a higher level of care (GRADE: very low), and worse quality of life (GRADE: very low) and physical function (GRADE: very low). Sarcopenia was associated with worse physical function (GRADE: very low) and lower rate of home discharge (OR: 0.14; 95%CI: 0.09-0.20; I 2:30%; GRADE: low). Frailty was associated with increased mortality (GRADE: very low), hospital readmission (GRADE: very low), and decreased home discharge (GRADE: very low).

CONCLUSION: Wasting conditions in older adults during rehabilitation admission may be associated with poorer quality of life, lower rates of home discharge, and higher rates of health service use, physical dysfunction, and mortality following discharge. Further research is needed to investigate the comparative and combined impacts, as well as the overlap of malnutrition, sarcopenia, and frailty during and after rehabilitation to guide priority screening and intervention.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)382-397
Number of pages16
JournalClinical Nutrition ESPEN
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2023
Externally publishedYes


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