Impaired lower limb muscle mass, quality and function in end stage liver disease: A cross‐sectional study

Jonathan I. Quinlan*, Amritpal Dhaliwal, Felicity R. Williams, Sophie L. Allen, Surabhi Choudhary, Alex Rowlands, Leigh Breen, Gareth G. Lavery, Janet M. Lord, Ahmed M. Elsharkawy, Matthew J. Armstrong, Carolyn A. Greig

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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New Findings:

·What is the central question of this study?
To what extent does musculoskeletal impairment occur (i.e., muscle mass, quality and function) in patients with end stage liver disease (ESLD) by comparison to a healthy age/sex‐matched control group?
·What is the main finding and its importance?
Muscle mass, quality and function are impaired in patients with ESLD (compared to age/sex matched controls). Importantly, greater impairments were seen in lower limb compared to arm and trunk muscle groups. These findings may suggest that there should be greater consideration of muscle health in functionally relevant lower limb muscle groups.

Sarcopenia is associated with reduced quality of life and increased mortality in patients with end stage liver disease (ESLD). Historically, sarcopenia identification in ESLD utilised L3 skeletal muscle index (SMI). There are few data on muscle quality and function within lower limb muscle groups with high functional relevance. The aim of this prospective case–control study was to evaluate the quadriceps muscle in patients with ESLD. Muscle mass and quality were evaluated using MRI (quadriceps anatomical cross sectional area (ACSA), quadriceps volume index, L3 SMI, quadriceps intermuscular adipose tissue (IMAT)), mid‐arm muscle circumference (MAMC) and ultrasonography (vastus lateralis (VL) thickness and quadriceps ACSA). Muscle strength/function was assessed by handgrip strength, peak quadriceps isokinetic torque and chair rise time. Thirty‐nine patients with ESLD (55 years, 61% male, 48% alcoholic related liver disease (ArLD), 71% Child–Pugh B/C) and 18 age/sex‐matched healthy control participants (HC) were studied. Quadriceps mass was significantly reduced in ESLD versus HC (−17%), but L3 SMI and MAMC were unchanged. Quadriceps IMAT percentage was increased in ESLD (+103%). Handgrip strength (−15%), peak isokinetic torque (−29%), and chair rise time (+56%) were impaired in ESLD. Ultrasound measures of VL thickness (r = 0.56, r = 0.57, r = 0.42) and quadriceps ACSA (r = 0.98, r = 0.86, r = 0.67) correlated to MRI quadriceps ACSA, quadriceps volume and L3 SMI, respectively. Quadriceps muscle mass, quality, and function were impaired in patients with ESLD, whereas conventional assessments of muscle (L3 SMI and MAMC) highlighted no differences between ESLD and HC. Full evaluation of lower limb muscle health is essential in ESLD in order to accurately assess sarcopenia and target future interventions.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1066-1079
JournalExperimental Physiology
Issue number8
Early online date11 May 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2023


  • cirrhosis
  • frailty
  • liver
  • myosteatosis
  • sarcopenia


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