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J Gastroenterol. 2015 Mar;50(3):323-32. doi: 10.1007/s00535-014-0964-9. Epub 2014 May 10.

Skeletal muscle depletion is an independent prognostic factor for hepatocellular carcinoma.

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Department of Gastroenterology/Internal Medicine, Gifu University Graduate School of Medicine, 1-1 Yanagido, Gifu, 501-1194, Japan.



Skeletal muscle depletion or sarcopenia has been identified as a poor prognostic factor for various diseases. The aim of this study is to determine whether muscle depletion is a prognostic factor for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC).


We evaluated 217 consecutive patients with primary HCC. The skeletal muscle cross-sectional area was measured by computed tomography at the third lumbar vertebra (L3), from which the total body fat-free mass (FFM) and L3 skeletal muscle index (L3 SMI) were obtained. The factors contributing to overall survival (OS) were analyzed by univariate and multivariate Cox proportional hazards model.


In univariate analysis, FFM (P = 0.0422), Child-Pugh classification (P = 0.0058), serum albumin level (P < 0.0001), serum AFP level (P < 0.0001), serum proteins induced by vitamin K absence or antagonist-II level (P < 0.0001), cancer stage (P < 0.0001), and curability of the initial treatment (P < 0.0001) were significantly associated with the prognosis of HCC. Multivariate analysis indicated that FFM (P = 0.0499), albumin level (P = 0.0398), and curability of the initial treatment (P = 0.0008) were independent prognostic factors. Sarcopenia was defined as an L3 SMI value of ≤29.0 cm(2)/m(2) for women and ≤36.0 cm(2)/m(2) for men, and 24 patients (11.1%) have sarcopenia. Sarcopenic patients showed a significantly lower OS than those without sarcopenia (P = 0.0043). Sarcopenic patients who were overweight (BMI >22) died earlier (P = 0.0129).


Skeletal muscle depletion is an independent prognostic factor. Intervention to prevent muscle wasting might be an effective strategy for improving the outcome of HCC.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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