Open Access Open Badges Research article

A multifactorial interdisciplinary intervention reduces frailty in older people: randomized trial

Ian D Cameron1*, Nicola Fairhall12, Colleen Langron3, Keri Lockwood1, Noeline Monaghan1, Christina Aggar4, Catherine Sherrington2, Stephen R Lord5 and Susan E Kurrle3

Author affiliations

1 Rehabilitation Studies Unit, University of Sydney, PO Box 6, Ryde NSW 1680, Australia

2 George Institute for Global Health, University of Sydney, PO Box M201 Missenden Road, Sydney NSW 2050, Australia

3 Division of Rehabilitation and Aged Care, Hornsby Ku-ring-gai Health Service, Palmerston Road, Hornsby NSW 2077, Australia

4 Faculty of Nursing and Midwifery, University of Sydney, Camperdown NSW 2006, Australia

5 Falls and Balance Research Group, Neuroscience Research Australia, University of New South Wales, PO Box 1165, Randwick NSW 2031, Australia

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Citation and License

BMC Medicine 2013, 11:65  doi:10.1186/1741-7015-11-65

Published: 11 March 2013



Frailty is a well known and accepted term to clinicians working with older people. The study aim was to determine whether an intervention could reduce frailty and improve mobility.


We conducted a single center, randomized, controlled trial among older people who were frail in Sydney, Australia. One group received an intervention targeting the identified characteristics of frailty, whereas the comparison group received the usual health care and support services. Outcomes were assessed by raters masked to treatment allocation at 3 and 12 months after study entry. The primary outcomes were frailty as assessed by the Cardiovascular Health Study criteria, and mobility as assessed by the Short Physical Performance Battery. Secondary outcome measures included disability, depressive symptoms and health-related quality of life.


A total of 216 participants (90%) completed the study. Overall, 68% of participants were women and the mean age was 83.3 years (standard deviation, 5.9). In the intention-to-treat analysis, the between-group difference in frailty was 14.7% at 12 months (95% confidence interval: 2.4%, 27.0%; P = 0.02). The score on the Short Physical Performance Battery, in which higher scores indicate better physical status, was stable in the intervention group and had declined in the control group; with the mean difference between groups being 1.44 (95% confidence interval, 0.80, 2.07; P <0.001) at 12 months. There were no major differences between the groups with respect to secondary outcomes. The few adverse events that occurred were exercise-associated musculoskeletal symptoms.


Frailty and mobility disability can be successfully treated using an interdisciplinary multifaceted treatment program.

Trial registration

Australia and New Zealand Clinical Trials Register (ANZCTR): ACTRN12608000250336

activities of daily living; frail elderly; randomized controlled trial; therapeutics; walking