Natural history of skeletal muscle mass changes in chronic kidney disease stage 4 and 5 patients: an observational study

PLoS One. 2013 May 31;8(5):e65372. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0065372. Print 2013.


Cross-sectional studies in dialysis demonstrate muscle wasting associated with loss of function, increased morbidity and mortality. The relative drivers are poorly understood. There is a paucity of data regarding interval change in muscle in pre-dialysis and dialysis-dependant patients. This study aimed to examine muscle and fat mass change and elucidate associations with muscle wasting in advanced CKD. 134 patients were studied (60 HD, 28 PD, 46 CKD 4-5) and followed up for two years. Groups were similar in age, sex and diabetes prevalence. Soft tissue cross-sectional area (CSA) was measured annually on 3 occasions by a standardised multi-slice CT thigh. Potential determinants of muscle and fat CSA were assessed. Functional ability was assessed by sit-to-stand testing. 88 patients completed follow-up (40 HD, 16 PD, 32 CKD). There was a significant difference in percentage change in muscle CSA (MCSA) over year 1, dependant on treatment modality (χ(2) = 6.46; p = 0.039). Muscle loss was most pronounced in pre-dialysis patients. Muscle loss during year 1 was partially reversed in year 2 in 39%. Incident dialysis patients significantly lost MCSA during the year which they commenced dialysis, but not the subsequent year. Baseline MCSA, change in MCSA during year 1 and dialysis modality predicted year 2 change in MCSA (adjusted R(2) = 0.77, p<0.001). There was no correlation between muscle or fat CSA change and any other factors. MCSA correlated with functional testing, although MCSA change correlated poorly with change in functional ability. These data demonstrate marked variability in MCSA over 2 years. Loss of MCSA in both pre-dialysis and established dialysis patients is reversible. Factors previously cross-sectionally shown to correlate with MCSA did not correlate with wasting progression. The higher rate of muscle loss in undialysed CKD patients, and its reversal after dialysis commencement, suggests that conventional indicators may not result in optimal timing of dialysis initiation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / pathology
  • Aged
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / complications*
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / pathology
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / therapy
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle, Skeletal / pathology*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiopathology
  • Muscular Atrophy / etiology*
  • Muscular Atrophy / physiopathology
  • Organ Size
  • Renal Dialysis

Grant support

This was funded by the British Renal Society and Kidney Research UK. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.