BACKGROUND: Skeletal muscle loss is often observed in intensive care patients. However, little is known about postoperative muscle loss, its associated risk factors, and its long-term consequences. The aim of this prospective observational study is to identify the incidence of and risk factors for surgery-related muscle loss (SRML) after major abdominal surgery, and to study the impact of SRML on fatigue and survival.
METHODS: Patients undergoing major abdominal cancer surgery were included in the MUSCLE POWER STUDY. Muscle thickness was measured by ultrasound in three muscles bilaterally (biceps brachii, rectus femoris, and vastus intermedius). SRML was defined as a decline of 10 per cent or more in diameter in at least one arm and leg muscle within 1 week postoperatively. Postoperative physical activity and nutritional intake were assessed using motility devices and nutritional diaries. Fatigue was measured with questionnaires and 1-year survival was assessed with Cox regression analysis.
RESULTS: A total of 173 patients (55 per cent male; mean (s.d.) age 64.3 (11.9) years) were included, 68 of whom patients (39 per cent) showed SRML. Preoperative weight loss and postoperative nutritional intake were statistically significantly associated with SRML in multivariable logistic regression analysis (P < 0.050). The combination of insufficient postoperative physical activity and nutritional intake had an odds ratio of 4.00 (95 per cent c.i. 1.03 to 15.47) of developing SRML (P = 0.045). No association with fatigue was observed. SRML was associated with decreased 1-year survival (hazard ratio 4.54, 95 per cent c.i. 1.42 to 14.58; P = 0.011).
CONCLUSION: SRML occurred in 39 per cent of patients after major abdominal cancer surgery, and was associated with a decreased 1-year survival.