Sarcopenia, fatigue, and nutrition in chronic liver disease

Several articles from a recent Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology have addressed nutritional aspects of chronic liver disease.

1. Sarcopenia?  This term refers to generalized loss of skeletal muscle.  It does not equate to malnutrition though there is significant overlap.  (Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology 2012; 10: 166-73 & editorial 100).  In this study, 112 adults with cirrhosis had CT scans which examined skeletal muscle at the L3 level; 40% had sarcopenia. Sarcopenia was independently associated with mortality and was not reflected in MELD score.  Patients had increased risk of death from sepsis and liver failure (HR 2.18).  Thus, sarcopenia joins hyponatremia, refractory ascites, hepatic encephalopathy as additional factors which add prognostic information to MELD score.

2. Fatigue in cirrhosis. (Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology 2012; 10: 174-81 & editorial 103).  Fatigue is common in cirrhosis and is multifactorial.  In this prospective study, 108 patients were evaluated with a fatigue impact scale. Fatigue improved after liver transplantation. Fatigue can be peripheral due to muscle weakness and dysfunction. And, fatigue can be central due to difficulty performing physical and mental activities.  Central fatigue is associated with an increased perceived effort for tasks and often related to depression; this type of fatigue is much more common with cirrhosis.  Although improved, fatigue often does not completely resolve with liver transplantation.

3. Nutrition recommendations. (Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology 2012; 10: 117-25).  A summary of nutrition recommendations in adults  with chronic liver disease is given in this article.  One common misconception is protein restriction.  This is not beneficial.  Protein recommendations are for adult patients with cirrhosis to receive 1-1.5 g/kg/day.  This amount is higher than for healthy individuals.  Protein restriction leads to protein catabolism, muscle breakdown and increases the likelihood of hepatic encephalopathy.

Additional references:

  • -Age Ageing 2010; 39: 412-23.  Sarcopenia consensus definitions in older people.
  • -Gastroenterology 2008; 134: 1741. Evaluation and management of end-stage liver disease in children. Recs vaccines due to functional asplenia/portal hypertension at age 2 for Neisseria (MCV4) or polysaccharide (MPSV4); at 6 weeks of age for pneumococcal conjugate vaccines. Reviews nutrition, varices, ascites, encephalopathy….
  • -Liver Transplant 2008; 14: 585-591. Poor growth often due to growth hormone resistance. Chronic malnutrition is a factor, but children with advanced liver dz may not grow despite adequate calories. Recs: for chronic liver dz: 130-150% of RDA based on ideal body wt; in infants 120-150 cal/kg/day. Increase MCT either thru formula or supplemental MCT.
  • -Liver Transplant 2006; 12: 1310. Review article on nutrition for OLTx patient.
  • -JPGN 2000; 30: 361. nutrition review and chronic liver disease.