In patients with decompensated cirrhosis, sarcopenia and frailty are prevalent. Although several definitions exist for these terms, in the field of hepatology, sarcopenia has commonly been defined as loss of muscle mass, and frailty has been broadly defined as the phenotypic manifestation of the loss of muscle function. Prompt recognition and accurate assessment of these conditions are critical as they are both strongly associated with morbidity, mortality, poor quality of life and worse post-liver transplant outcomes in patients with cirrhosis. In this review, we describe the complex pathophysiology that underlies the clinical phenotypes of sarcopenia and frailty, their association with decompensation, and provide an overview of tools to assess these conditions in patients with cirrhosis. When available, we highlight data focusing on patients with acutely decompensated cirrhosis, such as inpatients, as this is an area of unmet clinical need. Finally, we discuss management strategies to reverse and/or prevent the development of sarcopenia and frailty, which include adequate nutritional intake of calories and protein, as well as regular exercise of at least moderate intensity, with a mix of aerobic and resistance training. Key knowledge gaps in our understanding of sarcopenia and frailty in decompensated cirrhosis remain, including best methods to measure muscle mass and function in the inpatient setting, racial/ethnic variation in the development and presentation of sarcopenia and frailty, and optimal clinical metrics to assess response to therapeutic interventions that translate into a reduction in adverse outcomes associated with these conditions.
Puneeta Tandon, Aldo J Montano-Loza, Jennifer C Lai, Srinivasan Dasarathy, Manuela Merli