Background: The mechanisms leading to muscle wasting in patients with COPD are still uncertain. This study was undertaken to evaluate the relationships among circulating levels of catabolic factors (ie, interleukin [IL]-6 and cortisol), anabolic factors (ie, bioavailable testosterone [Tbio], dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate [DHEAS], and insulin-like growth factor [IGF]-I), and mid-thigh muscle cross-sectional area (MTCSA) in patients with COPD.
Methods: Serum levels of the above factors were measured in 45 men with COPD (mean [+/- SEM] FEV(1), 43 +/- 3% predicted; mean age, 67 +/- 1 years) and 16 sedentary healthy men of similar age. MTCSA was quantified using CT scanning. Patients with COPD were subdivided into two groups according to the MTCSA (< 70 or >or= 70 cm(2)).
Results: There was a greater prevalence of hypogonadism (ie, Tbio, < 2 nmol/L) in patients with COPD compared to control subjects (22% vs 0%, respectively). Patients with an MTCSA of < 70 cm(2) had significantly reduced levels of DHEAS compared to those in healthy subjects (p < 0.01). IL-6 levels were significantly higher in both subgroups of COPD patients compared to those in control subjects (p < 0.005). The cortisol/DHEAS, IL-6/DHEAS, IL-6/Tbio, and IL-6/IGF-I ratios were significantly greater in COPD patients with an MTCSA of < 70 cm(2) compared to those in control subjects (p < 0.05). The cortisol/DHEAS and IL-6/DHEAS ratios were also significantly greater in COPD patients with an MTCSA of < 70 cm(2) than in COPD patients with an MTCSA of >or= 70 cm(2) (p < 0.05). In a stepwise multiple regression analysis, the IL-6/DHEAS ratio explained 20% of the variance in MTCSA (p < 0.005).
Conclusion: Catabolic/anabolic disturbances were found in COPD patients leading to a shift toward catabolism and possibly to the development of peripheral muscle wasting.