Interventions for the management and prevention of sarcopenia in the critically ill: a systematic review

Samuel Trethewey, Nicholas Brown, Fang Gao Smith, Alice Turner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)
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Purpose: In the critically ill, sarcopenia is associated with a variety of adverse outcomes however there is no consensus regarding its management. This study aimed to systematically review the evidence for interventions for the management and prevention of sarcopenia in critically ill patients.
Materials and Methods: Bibliographic databases were searched according to pre-specified criteria (PROSPERO-CRD42018086271). Randomised controlled trials (RCTs) investigating interventions to preserve muscle mass and/or function in critically ill patients were included. Two independent authors selected the articles and assessed bias using the Cochrane Risk of Bias Tool.
Results: Twenty-two eligible RCTs were identified comprising 2792 patients. Three main groups of interventions were implemented in these trials: neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES), exercise-based and nutritional. Both the interventions and outcomes measured varied significantly between studies. NMES was most frequently studied as an intervention to preserve muscle mass whilst exercise-based treatments were evaluated as interventions to preserve muscle function. There was significant variation in the efficacy of the interventions on sarcopenia markers and secondary outcomes.
Conclusions: NMES and exercise-based interventions may preserve muscle mass and function in patients with critical illness. There is a lack of consistency seen in the effects of these interventions. Further, large, high quality RCTs are required.

Keywords: sarcopenia; muscle wasting; critical illness; intensive care; intensive care unit acquired weakness; ICU-AW
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)287-295
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Critical Care
Early online date14 Jan 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2019


  • sarcopenia
  • muscle wasting
  • critical illness
  • intensive care
  • intensive care unit acquired weakness
  • ICU-AW


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