Background and objectives: Sarcopenia is common in hemodialysis patients. This study examined whether the anabolic steroid oxymetholone improves muscle mass and handgrip strength in hemodialysis patients and possible mechanisms that might engender such changes.
Design, setting, participants, & measurements: Forty-three eligible hemodialysis patients were randomly assigned to ingest oxymetholone or placebo for 24 weeks. Body composition, handgrip strength, and quality of life were measured during the study. Muscle biopsies were performed and analyzed for mRNA levels for myostatin, IGF-I, IGF binding proteins, and myosin heavy chains and protein expression. Muscle fiber types and diameter were assessed by reduced nicotinamide-adenine dinucleotide staining.
Results: There was a significantly greater increase in fat-free mass and handgrip strength and decrease in fat mass in the oxymetholone compared with the placebo group. Moreover, compared with baseline values, patients given oxymetholone exhibited an increase in fat-free mass, handgrip strength, physical functioning scores, and type I muscle fiber cross-sectional area and a decrease in fat mass, whereas patients receiving placebo did not undergo changes. There was a significantly greater increase in muscle mRNA levels for myosin heavy chain 2×, IGF-I, and IGF-II receptor with oxymetholone treatment than placebo. Liver enzyme rose significantly in the oxymetholone group, but the number of values greater than three times the upper limit of normal were not different between these groups.
Conclusions: In hemodialysis patients, ingesting oxymetholone was associated with an increase in fat-free mass, handgrip strength, and muscle mRNA levels for several growth factors and a decrease in fat mass, but it also induced liver injury.