The complexity of treating wasting in ambulatory rehabilitation: Is it starvation, sarcopenia, cachexia or a combination of these conditions?

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Abstract

Nutritional status is often impaired in ambulatory rehabilitation patients. Wasting conditions can be classified as starvation, sarcopenia or cachexia but differences between these are not well defined, and misdiagnosis may lead to inappropriate intervention. A secondary analysis of data from 187 ambulatory rehabilitation patients aged ≥60 years aimed to identify patients with one or more wasting condition, and investigate the impact on common rehabilitation outcomes. Starvation was defined by fat-free mass index and the Council on Nutrition Appetite Questionnaire score; sarcopenia by fat-free mass index and quadriceps strength; and cachexia by fat-free mass index and serum C-reactive protein. Selected rehabilitation outcomes were compared for those who were, and those who were not, identified as having one or more wasting condition. Of those identified with starvation (n=30), all were also identified as sarcopenic and 20 as cachectic; of those identified as sarcopenic (n=75), 30 had starvation and 37 were cachectic; and of those identified as cachectic (n=37), 20 had starvation and all were sarcopenic. Twenty participants were identified as having all three conditions. Those with starvation had higher level of depression (p=0.003), lower self-rated health (p=0.032), and lower levels of physical function (motor p=0.006; process p=0.004) than those with no evidence of a wasting condition. Those who had sarcopenia had lower physical function (motor p=0.012; process p=0.003) as did those with cachexia (motor p=0.025; process p=0.042). Results suggest problems in operationalising definitions in an ambulatory clinical setting. The overlap identified in this analysis suggests that up to 40% (75/187) of patients could be misidentified and prescribed inappropriate nutritional support.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)386-393
Number of pages8
JournalAsia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Volume21
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2012

Keywords

  • Aged
  • Cachexia
  • Sarcopenia
  • Starvation
  • Wasting

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