Grip strength measurement for frailty assessment in patients with vascular disease and associations with comorbidity, cardiac risk, and sarcopenia

J Vasc Surg. 2018 May;67(5):1512-1520. doi: 10.1016/j.jvs.2017.08.078. Epub 2017 Dec 21.


Objective: Frailty is associated with adverse events, length of stay, and nonhome discharge after vascular surgery. Frailty measures based on walking-based tests may be impractical or invalid for patients with walking impairment from symptoms or sequelae of vascular disease. We hypothesized that grip strength is associated with frailty, comorbidity, and cardiac risk among patients with vascular disease.

Methods: Dominant hand grip strength was measured during ambulatory clinic visits among patients with vascular disease (abdominal aortic aneurysm [AAA], carotid stenosis, and peripheral artery disease [PAD]). Frailty prevalence was defined on the basis of the 20th percentile of community-dwelling population estimates adjusted for age, gender, and body mass index. Associations between grip strength, Charlson Comorbidity Index (CCI), Revised Cardiac Risk Index (RCRI), and sarcopenia (based on total psoas area for patients with cross-sectional abdominal imaging) were evaluated using linear and logistic regression.

Results: Grip strength was measured in 311 participants; all had sufficient data for CCI calculation, 217 (69.8%) had sufficient data for RCRI, and 88 (28.3%) had cross-sectional imaging permitting psoas measurement. Eighty-six participants (27.7%) were categorized as frail on the basis of grip strength. Frailty was associated with CCI (odds ratio, 1.86; 95% confidence interval, 1.34-2.57; P = .0002) in the multivariable model. Frail participants also had a higher average number of RCRI components vs nonfrail patients (mean ± standard deviation, 1.8 ± 0.8 for frail vs 1.5 ± 0.7 for nonfrail; P = .018); frailty was also associated with RCRI in the adjusted multivariable model (odds ratio, 1.75; 95% confidence interval, 1.16-2.64; P = .008). Total psoas area was lower among patients categorized as frail vs nonfrail on the basis of grip strength (21.0 ± 6.6 vs 25.4 ± 7.4; P = .010). Each 10 cm2 increase in psoas area was associated with a 5.7 kg increase in grip strength in a multivariable model adjusting for age and gender (P < .0001). Adjusted least squares mean psoas diameter estimates were 25.5 ± 1.1 cm2 for participants with AAA, 26.7 ± 2.0 cm2 for participants with carotid stenosis, and 22.7 ± 0.8 cm2 for participants with PAD (P = .053 for PAD vs AAA; P = .057 for PAD vs carotid stenosis; and P = .564 for AAA vs carotid stenosis).

Conclusions: Grip strength is useful for identifying frailty among patients with vascular disease. Frail status based on grip strength is associated with comorbidity, cardiac risk, and sarcopenia in this population. These findings suggest that grip strength may have utility as a simple and inexpensive risk screening tool that is easily implemented in ambulatory clinics, avoids the need for imaging, and overcomes possible limitations of walking-based measures. Lower mean psoas diameters among patients with PAD vs other diagnoses may warrant consideration of specific approaches to morphomic analysis.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cause of Death
  • Comorbidity
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Frail Elderly
  • Frailty / diagnosis*
  • Frailty / epidemiology
  • Frailty / physiopathology
  • Geriatric Assessment
  • Hand Strength*
  • Health Status
  • Heart Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Heart Diseases / epidemiology
  • Heart Diseases / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Least-Squares Analysis
  • Linear Models
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Muscle Strength Dynamometer
  • North Carolina / epidemiology
  • Odds Ratio
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Prevalence
  • Prognosis
  • Prospective Studies
  • Psoas Muscles / diagnostic imaging*
  • Risk Factors
  • Sarcopenia / diagnostic imaging*
  • Sarcopenia / epidemiology
  • Sarcopenia / physiopathology
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed
  • Vascular Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Vascular Diseases / epidemiology
  • Vascular Diseases / physiopathology