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PLoS One. 2017 Oct 31;12(10):e0186547. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0186547. eCollection 2017.

Low skeletal muscle mass is associated with increased hospital expenditure in patients undergoing cancer surgery of the alimentary tract.

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Department of Surgery, Erasmus MC University Medical Centre, Rotterdam, the Netherlands.
Department of Control and Compliance, Erasmus MC University Medical Centre, Rotterdam, the Netherlands.
Department of Surgical Oncology, Erasmus MC Cancer Institute, Rotterdam, the Netherlands.



Low skeletal muscle mass is associated with poor postoperative outcomes in cancer patients. Furthermore, it is associated with increased healthcare costs in the United States. We investigated its effect on hospital expenditure in a Western-European healthcare system, with universal access.


Skeletal muscle mass (assessed on CT) and costs were obtained for patients who underwent curative-intent abdominal cancer surgery. Low skeletal muscle mass was defined based on pre-established cut-offs. The relationship between low skeletal muscle mass and hospital costs was assessed using linear regression analysis and Mann-Whitney U-tests.


452 patients were included (median age 65, 61.5% males). Patients underwent surgery for colorectal cancer (38.9%), colorectal liver metastases (27.4%), primary liver tumours (23.2%), and pancreatic/periampullary cancer (10.4%). In total, 45.6% had sarcopenia. Median costs were €2,183 higher in patients with low compared with patients with high skeletal muscle mass (€17,144 versus €14,961; P<0.001). Hospital costs incrementally increased with lower sex-specific skeletal muscle mass quartiles (P = 0.029). After adjustment for confounders, low skeletal muscle mass was associated with a cost increase of €4,061 (P = 0.015).


Low skeletal muscle mass was independently associated with increased hospital costs of about €4,000 per patient. Strategies to reduce skeletal muscle wasting could reduce hospital costs in an era of incremental healthcare costs and an increasingly ageing population.

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