The association between anticholinergic burden and mobility: a systematic review and meta-analyses

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Abstract

Background
As people age, they accumulate several health conditions, requiring the use of multiple medications (polypharmacy) to treat them. One of the challenges with polypharmacy is the associated increase in anticholinergic exposure to older adults. In addition, several studies suggest an association between anticholinergic burden and declining physical function in older adults.

Objective/Purpose
This systematic review aimed to synthesise data from published studies regarding the association between anticholinergic burden and mobility. The studies were critically appraised for the strength of their evidence.

Methods
A systematic literature search was conducted across five electronic databases, EMBASE, CINAHL, PSYCHINFO, Cochrane CENTRAL and MEDLINE, from inception to December 2021, to identify studies on the association of anticholinergic burden with mobility. The search was performed following a strategy that converted concepts in the PECO elements into search terms, focusing on terms most likely to be found in the title and abstracts of the studies. For observational studies, the risk of bias was assessed using the Newcastle Ottawa Scale, and the Cochrane risk of bias tool was used for randomised trials. The GRADE criteria was used to rate confidence in evidence and conclusions. For the meta-analyses, we explored the heterogeneity using the Q test and I2 test and the publication bias using the funnel plot and Egger’s regression test. The meta-analyses were performed using Jeffreys’s Amazing Statistics Program (JASP).

Results
Sixteen studies satisfied the inclusion criteria from an initial 496 studies. Fifteen studies identified a significant negative association of anticholinergic burden with mobility measures. One study did not find an association between anticholinergic intervention and mobility measures. Five studies included in the meta-analyses showed that anticholinergic burden significantly decreased walking speed (0.079 m/s ± 0.035 MD ± SE,95% CI: 0.010 to 0.149, p = 0.026), whilst a meta-analysis of four studies showed that anticholinergic burden significantly decreased physical function as measured by three variations of the Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADL) instrument 0.27 ± 0.12 (SMD ± SE,95% CI: 0.03 to 0.52), p = 0.027. The results of both meta-analyses had an I2 statistic of 99% for study heterogeneity. Egger’s test did not reveal publication bias.

Conclusion
There is consensus in published literature suggesting a clear association between anticholinergic burden and mobility. Consideration of cognitive anticholinergic effects may be important in interpreting results regarding the association of anticholinergic burden and mobility as anticholinergic drugs may affect mobility through cognitive effects.
Original languageEnglish
Article number161
JournalBMC Geriatrics
Volume23
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 23 Mar 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding
No funding was received for this systematic review and meta-analysis

Availability of data and materials
All data generated or analysed during this study are included in this published
article [and its supplementary information fles].

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