Sarcopenia is associated with osteopenia and impaired quality of life in children with genetic intrahepatic cholestatic liver disease

Hepatol Commun. 2023 Oct 31;7(11):e0293. doi: 10.1097/HC9.0000000000000293. eCollection 2023 Nov 1.


Background: Sarcopenia occurs in pediatric chronic liver disease, although the prevalence and contributing factors in genetic intrahepatic cholestasis are not well-described. The objective of this study was to measure muscle mass in school-aged children with genetic intrahepatic cholestasis and assess relationships between sarcopenia, clinical variables, and outcomes.

Methods: Estimated skeletal muscle mass (eSMM) was calculated on dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry obtained in a Childhood Liver Disease Research Network study of children with bile acid synthesis disorders(BASD) alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency (a1ATd), chronic intrahepatic cholestasis (CIC), and Alagille syndrome (ALGS). Relationships between eSMM, liver disease, and transplant-free survival were assessed.

Results: eSMM was calculated in 127 participants (5-18 y): 12 BASD, 41 a1ATd, 33 CIC, and 41 ALGS. eSMM z-score was lower in CIC (-1.6 ± 1.3) and ALGS (-2.1 ± 1.0) than BASD (-0.1 ± 1.1) and a1ATd (-0.5 ± 0.8, p < 0.001). Sarcopenia (defined as eSMM z-score ≤- 2) was present in 33.3% of CIC and 41.5% of ALGS participants. eSMM correlated with bone mineral density in the 4 disease groups (r=0.52-0.55, p < 0.001-0.07), but not serum bile acids, bilirubin, aspartate aminotransferase/platelet ratio index, or clinically evident portal hypertension. Of the 2 patients who died (1 with sarcopenia) and 18 who underwent liver transplant (LT, 4 with sarcopenia), eSMM z-score did not predict transplant-free survival. eSMM z-score correlated with the Physical Pediatric Quality of Life Inventory score (r=0.38-0.53, p = 0.007-0.04) in CIC and a1ATd.

Conclusion: Severe sarcopenia occurs in some children with ALGS and CIC. The lack of correlation between eSMM and biochemical cholestasis suggests mechanisms beyond cholestasis contribute to sarcopenia. While sarcopenia did not predict transplant-free survival, LT and death were infrequent events. Future studies may define mechanisms of sarcopenia in genetic intrahepatic cholestasis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Bone Diseases, Metabolic* / genetics
  • Child
  • Cholestasis* / genetics
  • Cholestasis, Intrahepatic* / genetics
  • Humans
  • Quality of Life
  • Sarcopenia* / genetics