Heart, Lung and Circulation

A Systematic Review of Frailty Scores Used in Heart Failure Patients

Published:February 18, 2023DOI:


      Frailty is a complex, multi-dimensional syndrome commonly observed in patients with heart failure (HF). The presence of frailty in patients living with HF is strongly associated with increased vulnerability to adverse events, including falls, hospitalisation, and increased mortality. Several scoring systems have been developed to assess the presence of frailty in patients with HF. These scoring systems vary in their complexity and applicability; however, they provide the physician with a more comprehensive understanding of the biological, functional, and psycho-social needs of these patients.


      To assess the clinical applicability of frailty tools in HF patients and their prognostic value, specifically relating to outcomes such as mortality, readmissions, and clinical deterioration.


      A literature search using six electronic databases (PubMed, Scopus, Embase, Medline, Cochrane and Web of Science) was performed in accordance with Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) guidelines. Key search Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) terms combined “Frailty” AND “Heart failure”. Studies were included if they assessed frailty using systematically defined criteria in a HF population. The PRISMA guidelines were used to include all relevant articles based on titles and abstracts. Full text articles were screened based on abstract relevance. A systematic narrative review of the literature was conducted on the final list of full text articles.


      An initial search yielded 8,066 articles. Following the removal of duplicates, title, and abstract searches, the remaining 154 articles underwent full text review, with 31 articles accepted for final qualitative synthesis. The two most utilised frailty scores were the Fried Frailty Phenotype (n=10) and the Barthel Index (n=8). The frailty scores provide prognostic data on multiple outcomes including mortality, increased hospitalisation, and functional decline.


      At the present time there is no universally applied frailty measure in a HF population. Choice of frailty score should be guided by physician experience and clinical setting, as well as tailored to a patient’s functional, biological, and psycho-social circumstances. A push to adopt a single universal scoring system may help to ensure that frailty is assessed in all patients who live with HF.


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