Background: Frailty is a prevalent geriatric condition associated with poor health outcomes. The pathogenesis of frailty is incompletely understood. We aimed to evaluate the relationship between cerebral small vessel disease (SVD) and frailty. Methods: People aged between 60 and 85 years were randomly selected from the electoral roll into the Tasmanian Study of Cognition and Gait. Participants completed standardized questionnaires regarding medical history and underwent objective sensorimotor, gait, and cognitive testing. These data were used to calculate a frailty index score. Magnetic resonance imaging was performed on all participants to measure SVD. Automated quantification was used to measure white matter hyperintensities (WMH), with manual consensus for subcortical infarction (SI) and cerebral microbleeds (CMB). Multivariable linear regression was used to determine the association between SVD and frailty. Results: The mean age of the sample (n = 388) was 72.0 years (SD 7.0), 44% (172/388) were female and the median Frailty Index was 0.20 (interquartile range 0.12, 0.27). WMH, SI, and CMB in unadjusted models were positively associated with higher frailty scores (p < .05). In final models including all brain variables, higher burden of WMH (β = 2.16; 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.75, 3.57; p = .003), but not SI (β = 2.96; 95% CI −0.44, 6.35; p = .09) or CMB (β = −0.46; 95% CI −4.88, 3.96; p = .84), was independently associated with a higher frailty score. Conclusions: We provide cross-sectional evidence for a positive association between larger burden of WMH and frailty. Longitudinal design is required to determine the temporality of this relationship.
Bibliographical noteThis is a pre-copyedited, author-produced version of an article accepted for publication in Journals of Gerontology, Series A following peer review. The version of record Siejka, T. P., Srikanth, V. K., Hubbard, R. E., Moran, C., Beare, R., Wood, A., ... Callisaya, M. L. (2017). Frailty and cerebral small vessel disease: a cross-sectional analysis of the Tasmanian Study of Cognition and Gain (TASCOG). Journals of Gerontology: Series A, in press, [glx145]. is available online at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/gerona/glx145