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Cognitive Impairment and Physical Frailty in Patients With Cirrhosis

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Physical frailty and impaired cognition are common in patients with cirrhosis. Physical frailty can be assessed using performance-based tests, but the extent to which impaired cognition may impact performance is not well characterized. We assessed the relationship between impaired cognition and physical frailty in patients with cirrhosis. We enrolled 1,623 ambulatory adult patients with cirrhosis waiting for liver transplantation at 10 sites. Frailty was assessed with the liver frailty index (LFI; "frail," LFI ≥ 4.4). Cognition was assessed at the same visit with the number connection test (NCT); continuous "impaired cognition" was examined in primary analysis, with longer NCT (more seconds) indicating worse impaired cognition. For descriptive statistics, "impaired cognition" was NCT ≥ 45 seconds. Linear regression associated frailty and impaired cognition; competing risk regression estimated subhazard ratios (sHRs) of wait-list mortality (i.e., death/delisting for sickness). Median NCT was 41 seconds, and 42% had impaired cognition. Median LFI (4.2 vs. 3.8) and rates of frailty (38% vs. 20%) differed between those with and without impaired cognition. In adjusted analysis, every 10-second NCT increase associated with a 0.08-LFI increase (95% confidence interval [CI], 0.07-0.10). In univariable analysis, both frailty (sHR, 1.63; 95% CI, 1.43-1.87) and impaired cognition (sHR, 1.07; 95% CI, 1.04-1.10) associated with wait-list mortality. After adjustment, frailty but not impaired cognition remained significantly associated with wait-list mortality (sHR, 1.55; 95% CI, 1.33-1.79). Impaired cognition mediated 7.4% (95% CI, 2.0%-16.4%) of the total effect of frailty on 1-year wait-list mortality. Conclusion: Patients with cirrhosis with higher impaired cognition displayed higher rates of physical frailty, yet frailty independently associated with wait-list mortality while impaired cognition did not. Our data provide evidence for using the LFI to understand mortality risk in patients with cirrhosis, even when concurrent impaired cognition varies.

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