Context: Physical frailty is associated with reduced muscle strength, impaired physical function, and quality of life. Testosterone (T) increases muscle mass and strength in hypogonadal patients. It is unclear whether T has similar effects in intermediate-frail and frail elderly men with low to borderline-low T.
Objective: Our objective was to determine the effects of 6 months T treatment in intermediate-frail and frail elderly men, on muscle mass and strength, physical function, and quality of life.
Design and setting: We conducted a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel-group, single-center study.
Participants: PARTICIPANTS were community-dwelling intermediate-frail and frail elderly men at least 65 yr of age with a total T at or below 12 nmol/liter or free T at or below 250 pmol/liter.
Methods: Two hundred seventy-four participants were randomized to transdermal T (50 mg/d) or placebo gel for 6 months. Outcome measures included muscle strength, lean and fat mass, physical function, and self-reported quality of life.
Results: Isometric knee extension peak torque improved in the T group (vs. placebo at 6 months), adjusted difference was 8.6 (95% confidence interval, 1.3-16.0; P = 0.02) Newton-meters. Lean body mass increased and fat mass decreased significantly in the T group by 1.08 +/- 1.8 and 0.9 +/- 1.6 kg, respectively. Physical function improved among older and frailer men. Somatic and sexual symptom scores decreased with T treatment; adjusted difference was -1.2 (-2.4 to -0.04) and -1.3 (-2.5 to -0.2), respectively.
Conclusions: T treatment in intermediate-frail and frail elderly men with low to borderline-low T for 6 months may prevent age-associated loss of lower limb muscle strength and improve body composition, quality of life, and physical function. Further investigations are warranted to extend these results.