Frailty, Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillators, and Mortality: a Systematic Review

Published: July 1, 2019
Category: Bibliography
Authors: Ariela R. Orkaby, Jane A. Driver, Michael A. Rosenberg, Michael Y. Chen
Countries: USA
Language: English
Types: Care Management, Population Health
Settings: Academic




Evidence for the benefit of implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICD) in preventing sudden cardiac death (SCD) in older adults is mixed; age alone may not predict benefit. Frailty may help identify patients in whom an ICD does not improve overall mortality risk.


Structured search of PubMedEmbaseWeb of Science, and Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials on 1/31/2019, without language restriction, with terms for ICD, frailty, and mortality. Frailty was defined broadly using any validated single component (e.g., walking speed, weight loss) or multi-component tool (e.g., cumulative deficit index). Each study was assessed for quality and risk of bias.


We identified and screened 2649 titles, reviewed 280 abstracts, and extracted 71 articles. Nine articles, including two RCTs, one prospective cohort, and six retrospective cohort studies met all criteria. The most common reason for exclusion was a lack of frailty definition. Frailty definitions were heterogeneous, including cumulative deficit models, low weight, and walking speed. Follow-up time for mortality differed: from days to > 6 years. All studies indicated that mortality was higher amongst individuals identified as frail, regardless of definition. In one RCT, slow walkers did not benefit from ICD therapy after 3 years. A cohort of 83,792 Medicare beneficiaries in an ICD registry reported higher 1-year mortality following ICD in those with frailty or dementia. Four studies reported an association between being underweight and increased mortality following ICD placement.


Existing literature suggests that individuals with frailty may not benefit from ICD placement for primary prevention of SCD.

frailty implantable cardioverter defibrillator sudden cardiac death

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