PURPOSE To assess the impact of retinopathy on mortality in older persons with concomitant health conditions.
DESIGN Population-based prospective cohort study.
PARTICIPANTS A total of 4966 individuals aged 67 to 96 years (43.2% were male) from the Age, Gene/Environment Susceptibility-Reykjavik Study (AGES-RS).
METHODS Retinopathy was evaluated from digital fundus images (2002-2006) using the modified Airlie House adaptation of the Early Treatment Diabetic Retinopathy Study protocol. Mortality was assessed through September 2013 (cause of death assigned through 2009). Cox proportional hazards regression models, with age as the time scale, estimated the association between retinopathy and death while controlling for risk factors and the presence of concomitant health conditions.
MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES Mortality from all causes and cardiovascular disease (CVD).
RESULTS Among the 4966 participants, 503 (10.1%) had diabetes and 614 (12.4%) had retinopathy at baseline. A subset of these (136 [2.7%]) had both diabetes and retinopathy. After a median follow-up of 8.6 years, 1763 persons died, 276 (45.0%) with retinopathy and 1487 (34.2%) without retinopathy, of whom 76 and 162 persons, respectively, also had diabetes. There were 366 deaths from CVD through 2009, 72 (11.7%) in persons with retinopathy and 294 (6.8%) in those without retinopathy. In multivariable analyses, retinopathy was significantly associated with all-cause mortality (hazard ratio [HR], 1.26; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.10-1.43; P < 0.01) and CVD-related mortality (HR, 1.57; 95% CI, 1.20-2.06; P < 0.01). Findings were more striking in men: all-cause HR, 1.33 (95% CI, 1.11-1.60) and CVD HR, 1.81 (95% CI, 1.25-2.63). Risk of mortality was further increased among those with retinopathy concomitant with microalbuminuria (all-cause HR, 1.70; 95% CI, 1.03-2.23, and CVD HR, 2.04; 95% CI, 1.27-3.28) and those with retinopathy, microalbuminuria, and diabetes (all-cause HR, 2.01; 95% CI, 1.22-3.31, and CVD HR, 5.24; 95% CI, 1.91-14.42). History of clinical stroke increased the risk of CVD-related mortality among persons with retinopathy (HR, 3.30; 95% CI, 2.05-5.32), particularly those with retinopathy and diabetes (HR, 5.38; 95% CI, 1.80-16.06).
CONCLUSIONS Even minimal retinopathy was a significant predictor of increased mortality in older persons, particularly men, irrespective of diabetes status. Persons with retinopathy may warrant closer clinical management of general health.