Cirrhosis-related sarcopenia may not resolve after liver transplantation

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JHEP reports : innovation in hepatology


BACKGROUND & AIMS: Sarcopenia has significant burden in cirrhosis and has been shown to worsen short-term post-liver transplantation (LT). This study aims to evaluate the long-term change in sarcopenia post-LT along with its associations and predictors. METHODS: A retrospective study of adult patients who underwent LT at a tertiary centre between 1/1/2009 and 12/31/2018. Relevant demographic and clinical data were collected. Skeletal muscle index (SMI) was calculated using standard of care computerised tomography (CT) scans pre- and post-LT. Sarcopenia was defined using previously established cut-points. The primary outcome was SMI change post-LT and secondary outcome was post-LT mortality. RESULTS: Out of 1165 patients, 401 met inclusion criteria (1,205 CT scans reviewed). The average age at transplant was 57 years; 63% were male. The average BMI was 28 kg/m. Thirteen percent of females and 32% of males had sarcopenia pre-LT. Post-LT SMI declined by 4.7 cm/m in the first year then by 0.39 cm/m per year thereafter. Females had greater rate of decline in SMI after the first year compared with males (0.87 cm/m per year 0.17 cm/m per year, respectively, = 0.02). Post-LT physical rehabilitation, infection, and readmissions were not associated with SMI trajectory. At 3 years post-LT, 31% of females and 48% of males had sarcopenia. Baseline sarcopenia was the only predictor of long-term post-LT sarcopenia on multivariable analysis, but it was not associated with mortality. CONCLUSIONS: Sarcopenia does not appear to resolve post-LT and likely worsens leading to nearly doubling its prevalence in those with long-term follow-up. Immediate post-LT physical rehabilitation was not associated with SMI trajectory in our cohort. IMPACT AND IMPLICATIONS: The prevalence of sarcopenia is high among patients with cirrhosis; however, data are mixed on the impact of sarcopenia on post-liver transplant (LT) course and there have been no studies evaluating the long-term evolution of sarcopenia post-LT beyond 1 year. In this study, we analysed changes in muscle mass up to 3 years after transplant in 401 patients and found that sarcopenia did not resolve in most liver transplant recipients and skeletal muscle mass tended to worsen after transplant with the greatest decline in muscle mass in the first year post-LT. Interestingly, sarcopenia did not influence post-transplant outcomes. Future prospective studies are needed to further understand the natural course of sarcopenia post-LT to guide interventions aiming at reversing post-LT sarcopenia.


Elise Reid- Fellow

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