Thigh Muscle Fat Infiltration Is Associated With Impaired Physical Performance Despite Remission in Cushing's Syndrome

J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2020 May 1;105(5):dgz329. doi: 10.1210/clinem/dgz329.


Context: Muscle weakness is common in patients with Cushing's syndrome (CS) and may persist after the resolution of hypercortisolism. Intramuscular fatty infiltration has been associated with the deterioration of muscle performance in several conditions.

Objectives: To quantify the degree of fatty infiltration in the thigh muscles of "cured" CS patients and evaluate the relationship between intramuscular fatty infiltration and physical performance.

Design: This was a cross-sectional study.

Setting: Tertiary referral center.

Patients: Thirty-six women with CS in remission, and 36 controls matched for age, BMI, menopausal status, and level of physical activity.

Main outcome measures: We analyzed the percentage fat fraction (FF) of the thigh muscles in the anterior, posterior, and combined anterior and posterior compartments using MRI and 2-point Dixon sequence. We assessed muscle function and strength using the following tests: gait speed (GS), timed up and go (TUG), 30-second chair stand, and hand grip strength.

Results: Fat fraction in all the compartments analyzed was increased in patients as compared with controls. The performance on TUG, 30-second chair stand, and GS was more impaired in CS patients versus controls. In patients, greater FF was negatively associated with performance on functional tests. Fat fraction in the combined anterior and posterior compartments predicted performance on TUG (ß 0.626, P < 0.000) and GS (ß -0.461, P = 0.007), after adjusting for age, BMI, menopausal status, and muscle mass.

Conclusions: Thigh muscle fatty infiltration is increased in "cured" CS patients and is associated with poorer muscle performance. Future studies are needed to establish therapeutic strategies to improve muscle weakness in these patients.

Trial registration: NCT03673761.

Keywords: Cushing’s syndrome; fatty infiltration; muscle; muscle performance.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / diagnostic imaging
  • Adipose Tissue / metabolism*
  • Adipose Tissue / pathology
  • Adiposity / physiology
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Cushing Syndrome* / diagnostic imaging
  • Cushing Syndrome* / metabolism
  • Cushing Syndrome* / physiopathology
  • Cushing Syndrome* / therapy
  • Female
  • Hand Strength
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle, Skeletal / diagnostic imaging
  • Muscle, Skeletal / metabolism*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / pathology
  • Physical Functional Performance*
  • Remission Induction
  • Thigh

Associated data