Lung transplant (LTX) can provide a survival benefit and improve physical function for selected patients with advanced pulmonary disease. Sarcopenia is a systemic muscle-failure that can be found in a variety of life stages and disabilities. In this study, we follow the evolution of each variable defined in sarcopenia and the outcomes in LTX recipients with post-transplant sarcopenia.
Patients who underwent LTX at Tohoku University Hospital between 2013 and 2018 were consecutively included in the retrospective cohort study, with follow-up to 2019. Sarcopenia was defined by low muscle mass (the cross-sectional area (CSA) of erector spinae muscle (ESM) in thoracic CT with a threshold < 17.24 cm/m) and either low muscle strength (hand-grip with a threshold of < 26 kg in males and of < 18 kg in females) or physical performance (6-min walk distance with a threshold < 46.5% of predicted distance).
Fifty-five recipients were included into the study, of whom 19 patients were defined as sarcopenic and 36 as non-sarcopenic. The muscle mass improved after transplant in both sarcopenic and non-sarcopenic individuals: the median ESM-CSA enlarged from 17.25 cm/m in 2 months post-LTX to 18.55 cm/m in 12 months (p < 0.001) and 17.63 cm/m in 36 months (p < 0.001) in non-sarcopenic individuals, while in sarcopenic patients it improved from 13.36 cm/m in 2 months to 16.31 cm/m in 12 months (p < 0.005) and 18.01 cm/m in 36 months (p < 0.001). The muscle mass in sarcopenia substantially recovered to close to non-sarcopenic conditions within 36-months (p < 0.001 in 2 months and p = 0.951 in 36 months). Accordingly, muscle strength and physical performance in both groups improved over time. No difference in survival was seen in both groups (Log-rank p = 0.096), and sarcopenia was not associated with an overall hazard of death (p = 0.147). There was no difference in the cumulative incidence of chronic lung allograft dysfunction between patients with or without sarcopenia (Log-rank p = 0.529).
Even patients with post-transplant sarcopenia have a chance to recover physical function to levels close to those without sarcopenia several years post LTX.