BACKGROUND & AIMS: The association between sarcopenia and prognosis in patients with cirrhosis remains to be determined. In this study, we aimed to quantify the association between sarcopenia and the risk of mortality in patients with cirrhosis, stratified by sex, underlying liver disease etiology, and severity of hepatic dysfunction.
METHODS: PubMed, Web of Science, EMBASE, and major scientific conference sessions were searched without language restriction through 13 January 2021 with an additional manual search of bibliographies of relevant articles. Cohort studies of ≥100 patients with cirrhosis and ≥12 months of follow-up that evaluated the association between sarcopenia, muscle mass and the risk of mortality were included.
RESULTS: Twenty-two studies involving 6,965 patients with cirrhosis were included. The pooled prevalence of sarcopenia in patients with cirrhosis was 37.5% overall (95% CI 32.4%-42.8%), and was higher in male patients, those with alcohol-associated liver disease, those with Child-Pugh grade C cirrhosis, and when sarcopenia was defined by L3-SMI (third lumbar-skeletal muscle index). Sarcopenia was associated with an increased risk of mortality in patients with cirrhosis (adjusted hazard ratio [aHR] 2.30, 95% CI 2.01-2.63), with similar findings in a sensitivity analysis of patients with cirrhosis without hepatocellular carcinoma (aHR 2.35, 95% CI 1.95-2.83) and in subgroups stratified by sex, liver disease etiology, and severity of hepatic dysfunction. The association between quantitative muscle mass index and mortality further supports the association between sarcopenia and poor prognosis (aHR 0.95, 95% CI 0.93-0.98). There was no significant heterogeneity in any of our analyses.
CONCLUSIONS: Sarcopenia was highly and independently associated with higher risk of mortality in patients with cirrhosis.
LAY SUMMARY: The prevalence of sarcopenia and its association with death in patients with cirrhosis remain unclear. This meta-analysis indicated that sarcopenia affected about one-third of patients with cirrhosis and up to 50% of patients with alcohol-related liver disease or Child-Pugh class C cirrhosis. Sarcopenia was independently associated with an ∼2-fold higher risk of mortality in patients with cirrhosis. The mortality rate increased with greater severity or longer durations of sarcopenia. Increasing awareness about the importance of sarcopenia in patients with cirrhosis among stakeholders must be prioritized.