What is the additive value of nutritional deficiency to VA-FI in the risk assessment for heart failure patients?

Document Type



Office of the Provost


Objectives: To assess the impact of adding the Prognostic Nutritional Index (PNI) to the U.S. Veterans Health Administration frailty index (VA-FI) for the prediction of time-to-death and other clinical outcomes in Veterans hospitalized with Heart Failure.
Methods: A retrospective cohort study of veterans hospitalized for heart failure (HF) from October 2015 to October 2018. Veterans ≥50 years with albumin and lymphocyte counts, needed to calculate the PNI, in the year prior to hospitalization were included. We defined malnutrition as PNI ≤43.6, based on the Youden index. VA-FI was calculated from the year prior to the hospitalization and identified three groups: robust (≤0.1), prefrail (0.1-0.2), and frail (>0.2). Malnutrition was added to the VA-FI (VA-FI-Nutrition) as a 32nd deficit with the total number of deficits divided by 32. Frailty levels used the same cut-offs as the VA-FI. We compared categories based on VA-FI to those based on VA-FI-Nutrition and estimated the hazard ratio (HR) for post-discharge all-cause mortality over the study period as the primary outcome and other adverse events as secondary outcomes among patients with reduced or preserved ejection fraction in each VA-FI and VA-FI-Nutrition frailty groups.
Results: We identified 37,601 Veterans hospitalized for HF (mean age: 73.4 ± 10.3 years, BMI: 31.3 ± 7.4 kg/m2). In general, VA-FI-Nutrition reclassified 1959 (18.6%) Veterans to a higher frailty level. The VA-FI identified 1,880 (5%) as robust, 8,644 (23%) as prefrail, and 27,077 (72%) as frail. The VA-FI-Nutrition reclassified 382 (20.3%) from robust to prefrail and 1577 (18.2%) from prefrail to frail creating the modified-prefrail and modified-frail categories based on the VA-FI-Nutrition. We observed shorter time-to-death among Veterans reclassified to a higher frailty status vs. those who remained in their original group (Median of 2.8 years (IQR:0.5,6.8) in modified-prefrail vs. 6.3 (IQR:1.8,6.8) years in robust, and 2.2 (IQR:0.7,5.7) years in modified-frail vs. 3.9 (IQR:1.4,6.8) years in prefrail). The adjusted HR in the reclassified groups was also significantly higher in the VA-FI-Nutrition frailty categories with a 38% increase in overall all-cause mortality among modified-prefrail and a 50% increase among modified-frails. Similar trends of increasing adverse events were also observed among reclassified groups for other clinical outcomes.
Conclusion: Adding PNI to VA-FI provides a more accurate and comprehensive assessment among Veterans hospitalized for HF. Clinicians should consider adding a specific nutrition algorithm to automated frailty tools to improve the validity of risk prediction in patients hospitalized with HF.


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Publication (Name of Journal)

Journal of Nutrition, Health and Aging