The Long Winding Road to Transplant: How Sarcopenia and Debility Impact Morbidity and Mortality on the Waitlist

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Abstract

Frailty and sarcopenia are common complications of cirrhosis. Frailty has been described as an increased susceptibility to stressors secondary to a cumulative decline in physiologic reserve; this decline occurs with aging or is a result of the disease process, across multiple organ systems. Sarcopenia, a key component of frailty, is defined as progressive and generalized loss of skeletal muscle mass and strength. The presence of either of these complications is associated with increased morbidity and mortality, as these are tightly linked to decompensation and increased complication rates. Recognition of these entities is critical. Studies have shown improvement in muscle strength and function lead to reduced mortality, suggesting both frailty and sarcopenia are modifiable risk factors. In this review we outline the prevalence of frailty and sarcopenia in cirrhosis and the impact on clinical outcomes such as decompensation, hospitalization, and mortality. Existing and potential novel therapeutic approaches for frailty and sarcopenia are also reviewed.

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