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

Seulgi Erica Kim, Mehrnaz Azarian, Aanand D. Naik, Catherine Park, Molly J. Horstman, Salim S. Virani, Orna Intrator, Christopher I. Amos, Ariela Orkaby, Javad Razjouyan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


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.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100253
JournalJournal of Nutrition, Health and Aging
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2024
Externally publishedYes


  • All-cause mortality
  • Frailty index
  • Heart failure
  • Malnutrition


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