Frailty in Late Midlife to Old Age and Its Relationship to Medical Imaging Use and Imaging-related Costs: A Longitudinal Study

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In the Helsinki Birth Cohort Study, frailty in late midlife and its rapid progression into old age were associated with increased imaging service use and imaging-related costs.


Frailty, defined as an increased vulnerability to and impaired recovery from stressors, is common in individuals in late midlife to old age. While frailty predisposes individuals to adverse health outcomes and increased health care utilization, how it impacts imaging service use and related costs remains unclear.


To determine whether frailty is associated with greater use of imaging services and higher imaging-related costs.

Materials and Methods

This longitudinal study included a subset of participants from the Helsinki Birth Cohort Study who were clinically assessed up to three times from late midlife to old age between August 2001 and September 2018. A frailty index (FI) based on 41 variables was calculated, and an FI of 0.25 or more indicated frailty. Associations of baseline frailty and its rate of change during the study with medical imaging service use and imaging-related costs were assessed using covariate-adjusted negative binomial and other generalized linear models.


Of the 1995 participants (mean age, 61.5 years ± 2.9 [SD]; 1074 female participants) included in this study, 569 (28.5%) were identified as frail at baseline, and these participants underwent 10 677 (42.4%) of the 25 172 medical imaging examinations among the participants. Compared to participants who were not frail at baseline, participants who were frail at baseline showed increased use of all imaging modalities (incidence rate ratio [IRR], 2.28 [95% CI: 1.97, 2.64]; P < .001) and higher imaging costs (log annual cost, 3.26 [95% CI: 2.36, 4.50]; P < .001). Compared to participants with stable or slow change in frailty (<0.0010 FI units per year), participants with a rapid increase in frailty (>0.0064 FI units per year) from late midlife to old age showed greater use of all medical imaging services, independent of FI at baseline (IRR, 1.82 [95% CI: 1.53, 2.17]; P < .001) and had higher imaging costs (log annual cost, 1.62 [95% CI: 1.30, 2.01)]; P < .001).


The presence of frailty and its progression rate are associated with increased use of imaging services and higher imaging-related costs.

© RSNA, 2023

Supplemental material is available for this article.


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Article History

Received: Feb 9 2023
Revision requested: Mar 16 2023
Revision received: Sept 25 2023
Accepted: Oct 18 2023
Published online: Nov 21 2023