Rapid skeletal muscle wasting predicts worse survival in patients with liver cirrhosis

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Sarcopenia impairs the outcome of patients with liver cirrhosis independently of liver function reserves. The aim of this study was to investigate whether the rate of skeletal muscle wasting predicts mortality in cirrhotic patients.


This retrospective study evaluated 149 cirrhotic patients who visited our hospital between March 2004 and September 2012. The skeletal muscle cross-sectional area at the level of the third lumbar vertebra was measured by computed tomography, from which the skeletal muscle index was obtained for diagnosis of sarcopenia. The relative change in skeletal muscle area per year (ΔSMA/y) was calculated in each patient. Cox proportional hazards regression analysis was performed to evaluate risk factors for mortality.


Of the 149 cirrhotic patients, 94 (63%) were diagnosed with sarcopenia. The median of ΔSMA/y in all patients was –2.2%. For patients in Child–Pugh class A, B and C, ΔSMA/y was –1.3%, –3.5% and –6.1%, respectively. During a median follow-up period of 39 months (range, 1–110), 45 patients (30%) died. The optimal cut-off value of ΔSMA/y for predicting mortality was –3.1%; the survival rate in patients with ΔSMA/y of –3.1% or less was significantly lower than in patients with ΔSMA/y of more than –3.1% (P < 0.0001). The multivariate Cox proportional hazards model found ΔSMA/y of –3.1% or less to be significantly associated with mortality in cirrhotic patients (hazard ratio = 2.73, 95% confidence interval = 1.43–5.44, P < 0.01).


ΔSMA/y is useful for predicting mortality in patients with liver cirrhosis. Management of skeletal muscle may contribute toward improving the outcome of cirrhotic patients.

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