Frailty in patients affected by atrial fibrillation

Arch Gerontol Geriatr. Nov-Dec 2013;57(3):325-7. doi: 10.1016/j.archger.2013.04.014. Epub 2013 May 23.


Atrial fibrillation (AF) is the most common arrhythmia among elderly people. However its relationship with the frailty syndrome is not well understood. It has been suggested that AF may be a marker of frailty in elderly, leading to the loss of independence in performing of routine daily activities. The aim of this study is to investigate the association between AF, frailty and cognitive decline in elderly patients. A total of 140 hospitalized patients, mean age 79.2 ± 7.4 years were enrolled in our study. Of these, 70 were affected by parossistic, persistent or permanent AF and 70, matched for age and gender, were concurrently studied as control. Cognitive impairment and frailty state has been evaluated in each patient using the Mini Mental State Examination (MMSE) and a standard score of accumulated deficits for constructing a frailty index. We have observed a higher number of frail patients in the AF group as compared with controls (88.6% vs 67.1%, p=0.004). The group of patients with frailty syndrome had MMSE score significantly lower than those of the nonfrail group (16.8 ± 9.8 vs 22.2 ± 6.4, p=0.005). Furthermore, a negative correlation between MMSE score and frailty index (rho = -0.517, p < 0.001) has been shown. Our study points out a statistical association between frailty and AF. Atrial fibrillation could worsen the frailty state, but perspective studies are necessary to confirm an increased mortality in patients affected by AF and frailty.

Keywords: Atrial fibrillation; Cognitive impairment; Frailty.

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Atrial Fibrillation / complications*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / etiology
  • Female
  • Frail Elderly* / statistics & numerical data
  • Geriatric Assessment
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Sex Factors