Although left ventricular filling tends to occur in late diastole in the elderly, the clinical significance of this change is unclear. To determine the prevalence of diastolic filling delay and its relationship to congestive heart failure (CHF) in the elderly, we studied 114 community-living elderly volunteers (median age 75, 37% male). Clinical history, physical examination, chest x-ray film, and Doppler echocardiogram were obtained in blinded fashion. CHF was diagnosed by a previously validated clinico- radiographic scoring system. Diastolic filling was assessed by the Doppler ratio of early to late transmitral flow velocity (E/A). The standard clinical definition of diastolic filling delay (E/A <1) was met by 94 subjects (82%), and median E/A was 0.72; for this study, diastolic filling delay was defined at the median, although both approaches yielded similar results. Systolic function was normal (ejection fraction >0.5) in 97%. There were 22 subjects (19%) with definite or possible CHF. Older subjects were more likely to have CHF, but not more likely to have an E/A ratio below the median. Subjects with diastolic filling delay were no more likely to have CHF than those without. Mean E/A was not different between CHF groups, and there was no significant correlation between E/A and CHF score. There was still no association after controlling for age, history of hypertension, and other potential confounders by multiple logistic regression. Although diastolic filling delay is common in the elderly, it does not correlate with signs and symptoms of CHF. Determination of its prognostic significance requires a prospective follow-up study.
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