Muscle wasting and energy balance in critical illness

Clin Nutr. 2004 Apr;23(2):273-80. doi: 10.1016/S0261-5614(03)00129-8.


Background: In nine patients with multiple organ failure ultrasound was able to identify muscle wasting despite the presence of oedema (Campbell et al., J Clin Nutr 62 (1995) 533).

Aims: The purpose of the present study was twofold: one was to determine whether this technique was applicable to a much larger ICU population, many of whom were not as ill as the original subjects. The second reason was to determine whether a relationship could be identified between rates of wasting and energy balance.

Methods: Serial measurements of both mid-upper arm circumference (MAC) and muscle thickness, using ultrasound, were made at 1-3 day intervals between 5 and 39 (median 7) days in 50 critically ill patients.

Results: Muscle thickness decreased in 48 of the 50 patients at a median rate of 1.6%/day with a range of 0.2-5.7%/day. In 33 patients, in whom MAC did not change significantly with time, muscle thickness decreased by between 0.3 and 4.2 (median 1.6)%/day. In three patients MAC increased significantly with time but muscle thickness decreased by between 1.3 and 5.7 (median 2.6)%/day. Twelve patients showed a significant decrease in MAC with time and muscle thickness in this group decreased by between 0.2 and 4.0 (median 1.3)%/day. The percentage decrease in muscle thickness between the groups, in whom MAC decreased or did not change, was not significantly different (P = 0.475).

Conclusion: We have demonstrated that an ultrasound technique devised to identify muscle wasting in the presence of severe fluid retention works in the majority (48/50) of patients when applied to a wider ICU population. Energy balance made no difference to the rate of wasting.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anthropometry
  • Critical Care
  • Critical Illness*
  • Energy Metabolism*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle, Skeletal / diagnostic imaging*
  • Muscular Atrophy / diagnostic imaging*
  • Time Factors
  • Ultrasonography
  • Wasting Syndrome / diagnostic imaging*