Friedreich ataxia (FRDA) is the most common genetic sensory ataxia, and myocardial involvement is a major determinant of survival.
To assess FRDA survival and cardiac outcome to adapt future therapeutic trials.
Design, Setting, and Participants
In a longitudinal follow-up study, all patients with genetically confirmed FRDA seen in the reference center and referred for cardiac evaluation (standard 12-lead electrocardiogram and transthoracic echocardiography) to the cardiology department were enrolled and followed up from April 27, 1990, to July 31, 2013. The setting was the French National Reference Center for Rare Diseases and the Department of Cardiology, Salpêtrière University Hospital, Paris, France. In total, 138 patients with FRDA were followed up. Among 133 patients homozygous for expanded GAA repeats, the mean (SD) age was 31 (10) years (age range, 11-62 years), with a mean (SD) age at disease onset of 16 (8) years (age range, 3-50 years) and a mean (SD) age at first wheelchair use of 26 (9) years (age range, 11-64 years). Cardiac hypertrophy was present in 57.9% (77 of 133), and electrocardiography was normal in 6.8% (9 of 133).
Main Outcomes and Measures
Long-term cardiac outcome and predictors of survival in FRDA.
After a mean (SD) follow-up of 10.5 (5.5) years (range, 0.6-23.0 years), the 10-year survival rate was 88.5%. In 80.0% of patients (12 of 15), death was due to cardiac causes. Predictors of survival were a shorter GAA repeat length on the smaller allele of the frataxin gene (hazard ratio [HR], 1.85; 95% CI, 1.28-2.69), left ventricular ejection fraction (HR, 0.42; 95% CI, 0.20-0.89), and left ventricular mass index (HR, 1.19; 95% CI, 1.04-1.36). Two cardiac evolutions were distinguished with a group-based trajectory model, including a low-risk cardiac group (78.6% [81 of 103] with normal ejection fraction at baseline that declined slightly over time but remained within the normal range) and a high-risk cardiac group (21.4% [22 of 103] in which the ejection fraction progressively declined during follow-up). The patients with the worse cardiac evolution had longer GAA repeats. Neurological impairment was not predictive of cardiac change over time.
Conclusions and Relevance
Survival in FRDA is determined by cardiac complications, which are dependent on the mutation (ie, the size of the expanded GAA repeat). Patients with progressive decline of the left ventricular ejection fraction had a worse prognosis. This finding demonstrates that cardiac follow-up is important in FRDA to identify individuals at risk for further cardiac complications.