Gerontologists Assess Change In Patients’ Functional Status


Affecting an estimated one in eight people older than 75, aortic valve stenosis a narrowing of the heart’s main artery makes the heart work harder to supply the body with blood, potentially limiting patient’s activity levels and quality of life. Ultimately, aortic stenosis can lead to stroke, arrhythmia, heart failure, and death.

valve replacement

Expecting to improve longevity as well as restore the quality of life; patients with aortic stenosis increasingly opt for one of two procedures to repair the aorta; surgical aortic valve replacement (SAVR); which requires opening up the chest cavity, or transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR), an increasingly popular minimally-invasive procedure. However; while valve repair has been shown to increase longevity, many patients’ quality of life continues to decline.

In a paper published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine; leading gerontologists at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) assessed the change in patients’ functional status during the year following valve replacement procedure. The team, led by Dae Hyun Kim, MD; demonstrated that patient outcomes were tightly linked to patients’ pre-operative health status and were also associated with postoperative complications and delirium.

Functional recovery

“Quality of life can be more meaningful than longevity to older adults,” said Kim, an assistant professor of medicine in BIDMC’s Division of Gerontology. “Although procedural outcomes for TAVR and SAVR have improved over time, the functional decline following the procedure is common. Information about the likelihood of seeing improvement after the procedure is essential for patient-centered decision-making and perioperative care to improve functional recovery.”

To glean that information; Kim and colleagues conducted comprehensive geriatric assessments for 246 patients older than 70 prior to undergoing TAVR or SAVR procedures. Next, the researchers calculated participants’ functional status using a standard frailty index commonly used in geriatrics. After patients underwent valve repair procedures; researchers conducted telephone interviews to assess patients’ self-reported ability to perform a range of daily mental and physical tasks such as; walking up a flight of stairs; handling small objects and managing money – one, three, six, nine and 12 months after the procedure.

Functional improvement

The team found that patients with high functional status and lower scores on the frailty index prior to valve replacement fared best after it. After SAVR an open-heart procedure reserved for those well enough to tolerate the surgery three quarters of patients experience functional improvement; with 19 % remaining stable and just four percent experiencing a decline.

Among those who underwent the minimally-invasive TAVR – by definition a frailer group – only 37 percent of patients’ functional status improved. About the same amount of patients, 38 percent, saw no improvement, while nearly a quarter of patients continued to decline. Patients’ frailty index scores prior to undergoing valve replacement procedures helped predict patients’ chances of improvement, stability or decline. Post-operative delirium and major complications are also linke to declines in functional status following the procedures.