Optimal body size adjustment of L3 CT skeletal muscle area for sarcopenia assessment

Sci Rep. 2021 Jan 11;11(1):279. doi: 10.1038/s41598-020-79471-z.


Measurements of skeletal muscle cross-sectional area (SMA) at the level of the third lumbar (L3) vertebra derived from clinical computed tomography (CT) scans are commonly used in assessments of sarcopenia, the loss of skeletal muscle mass and function associated with aging. As SMA is correlated with height and Body Mass Index (BMI), body size adjustment is necessary to fairly assess sarcopenic low muscle mass in individuals of different height and BMI. The skeletal muscle index, a widely used measure, adjusts for height as [Formula: see text] but uses no BMI adjustment. There is no agreed upon standard for body size adjustment. We extracted L3 SMA using non-contrast-enhanced CT scans from healthy adults, split into 'Under-40' and 'Over-40' cohorts. Sex-specific allometric analysis showed that height to the power of one was the optimal integer coefficient for height adjusted SMA in both males and females. We computed two height-adjusted measures [Formula: see text] and [Formula: see text], comparing their Pearson correlations versus age, height, weight, and BMI separately by sex and cohort. Finally, in the 'Under-40' cohort, we used linear regression to convert each height-adjusted measure into a z-score ([Formula: see text], [Formula: see text]) adjusted for BMI. [Formula: see text] was less correlated with height in both males and females ([Formula: see text], [Formula: see text] and [Formula: see text], [Formula: see text]) than [Formula: see text] ([Formula: see text] and [Formula: see text], [Formula: see text]). [Formula: see text] was uncorrelated with BMI and weight, and minimally correlated with height in males and females ([Formula: see text], [Formula: see text] and [Formula: see text], [Formula: see text]). The final [Formula: see text] equation was: [Formula: see text], where [Formula: see text], [Formula: see text], [Formula: see text], and sex = 1 if male, 0 if female. We propose [Formula: see text] for optimal height adjustment and the [Formula: see text] score for optimal height and BMI adjustment. By minimizing correlations with height and BMI, the [Formula: see text] score produces unbiased assessments of relative L3 skeletal muscle area across the full range of body sizes.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Body Mass Index
  • Body Size
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle, Skeletal / diagnostic imaging*
  • Reference Standards
  • Sarcopenia / diagnostic imaging*
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed* / standards