LUpus Patients Understanding and Support
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Is frailty a relevant concept in SLE?


Objective In geriatric populations, frailty is associated with poor health outcomes, including mortality. Frailty has not been examined in lupus, although components of the phenotype seem relevant.

Methods Women with lupus (n=152) participated in research visits in 2008–2009. Frailty was assessed by Fried's frailty phenotype criteria: low weight/unintentional weight loss, slow gait (4-m walk using sex and height criteria), weakness (grip strength using gender and body mass index criteria), exhaustion (2 specific questions) and inactivity (from physical activity questionnaire). Women accumulating 3+ components were classified as ‘frail’, one or two components as ‘prefrail’, and none as ‘robust’. Physical function (36-item Short Form (SF-36) Physical Functioning subscale and Valued Life Activities disability scale), cognitive function (from a 12-test battery) and mortality were examined as outcomes. Mortality was determined as of December 2015. Multiple regression analyses examined concurrent and 2-year function controlling for age, lupus duration, race/ethnicity, glucocorticoid use, obesity, self-reported disease activity and damage and, for longitudinal analyses, baseline function. Mortality analyses controlled for age, lupus duration and baseline disease damage scores.

Results Mean age was 48 (±12) years, mean lupus duration was 16 (±9) years. 20% of the sample was classified as frail and 50% as prefrail. Frail women had significantly worse physical functioning than both robust and prefrail women and were more likely to have cognitive impairment. Frail women were also more likely to experience declines in functioning and onset of cognitive impairment. Mortality rates were significantly higher in the frail group (frail 19.4%; prefrail 3.9%; robust 2.3%). Odds (95% CI) of death for frail women were elevated, even after adjusting for age, lupus duration and baseline disease damage (5.9 (0.6 to 57.1)).

Conclusions Prevalence of frailty in this sample of women with lupus was higher than in samples of older adults. Frailty was associated with poor physical and cognitive function, functional declines and mortality.