Can a Left Ventricular Assist Device in Individuals with Advanced Systolic Heart Failure Improve or Reverse Frailty?

J Am Geriatr Soc. 2017 Nov;65(11):2383-2390. doi: 10.1111/jgs.15124. Epub 2017 Sep 21.


Background/objectives: Frailty, characterized by low physiological reserves, is strongly associated with vulnerability to adverse outcomes. Features of frailty overlap with those of advanced heart failure, making a distinction between them difficult. We sought to determine whether implantation of a left ventricular assist device (LVAD) would decrease frailty.

Design: Prospective, cohort study.

Setting: Five academic medical centers.

Participants: Frail individuals (N = 29; mean age 70.6 ± 5.5, 72.4% male).

Measurements: Frailty, defined as having 3 or more of the Fried frailty criteria, was assessed before LVAD implantation and 1, 3, and 6 months after implantation. Other domains assessed included quality of life, using the Kansas City Cardiomyopathy Questionnaire; mood, using the Patient Health Questionnaire; and cognitive function, using the Trail-Making Test Part B.

Results: After 6 months, three subjects had died, and one had undergone a heart transplant; of 19 subjects with serial frailty measures, the average number of frailty criteria decreased from 3.9 ± 0.9 at baseline to 2.8 ± 1.4 at 6 months (P = .003). Improvements were observed after 3 to 6 months of LVAD support, although 10 (52.6%) participants still had 3 or more Fried criteria, and all subjects had at least one at 6 months. Changes in frailty were associated with improvement in QOL but not with changes in mood or cognition. Higher estimated glomerular filtration rate at baseline was independently associated with a decrease in frailty.

Conclusion: Frailty decreased in approximately half of older adults with advanced heart failure after 6 months of LVAD support. Strategies to enhance frailty reversal in this population are worthy of additional study.

Keywords: advanced heart failure; frailty; ventricular assist device.

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cardiac Surgical Procedures
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Frail Elderly*
  • Heart Failure, Systolic / surgery*
  • Heart-Assist Devices / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Prognosis
  • Prospective Studies
  • Ventricular Dysfunction, Left / surgery*