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ESC press release: Loss of muscle and weight associated with disability after stroke

European Society of Cardiology

Berlin, Germany - 25 January 2019: Loss of muscle and body weight is associated with disability after stroke, reports a study presented today at Heart & Stroke 2019, a meeting of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) Council on Stroke, and published in the Journal of Cachexia, Sarcopenia and Muscle.1

Study author Dr Nadja Scherbakov, of the Centre for Stroke Research Berlin and Charité University Hospital, Berlin, Germany, said: "Body wasting in the course of a disease - called cachexia - is observed in cancer and chronic diseases like heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and kidney disease. To the best of our knowledge, our study is the first to prospectively investigate the development of cachexia in patients after acute stroke."

"Stroke is the main cause of adult disability and it is common understanding that this is all due to brain injury and impaired innervation," she continued. "Our findings show that the amount of skeletal muscle throughout the body declines after stroke. This opens the door for treatment options such as dietary supplementation and exercise training to prevent muscle wasting after stroke."

The study examined changes in body weight and composition during the year after an ischaemic stroke and their association with disability. The researchers found that 21% of patients had developed cachexia one year later, meaning they had lost at least 5% of their body weight. This included the loss of 19% of their body fat and 6.5% of their muscle mass. Notably, this body wasting occurred equally in patients with and without limb paresis.

Patients with cachexia had significantly lower functional capacity and significantly lower handgrip strength than those without cachexia.

Dr Scherbakov said: "The disability caused by stroke is usually attributed to brain damage, with little attention paid to the effector organ, which is the skeletal muscle. Exercise training is the most promising way to delay or prevent progression of muscle wasting and may be a therapy option. Treatment of cachexia includes dietary supplementation with protein, vitamins and minerals, and might also prevent muscle wasting after stroke."

She added: "Older patients with moderately severe stroke were particularly prone to developing cachexia after stroke, so it is very important to monitor their body weight, appetite and nutritional status."

Patients with cachexia had significantly higher levels of inflammation in the body, as measured by C-reactive protein (CRP) in the blood, than those without cachexia. Patients with systemic inflammation had a fivefold greater risk of muscle wasting, 11% higher risk of weight loss, 30% greater chance of reduced appetite, and 6% higher likelihood of low handgrip strength.

Dr Scherbakov said: "This suggests that systemic inflammation may contribute to tissue wasting and the development of cachexia."

The study was conducted in the Stroke Unit, Department of Neurology, Charité Campus Virchow Clinic, Berlin, in 150 patients with mild to moderate ischaemic stroke recruited within 48 hours after stroke. Baseline measurements included body weight; body composition by dual-x-ray absorptiometry; functional status by the National Institutes of Health Stroke Scale (NIHSS), modified Rankin scale, and Barthel index; and muscle strength by handgrip and quadriceps tests. The measurements were repeated one year later.

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Authors: ESC Press Office
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Email: press@escardio.org
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Notes to editor

Funding and disclosures: The authors acknowledge support from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and the Open Access Publication Fund of Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin.

References and notes 1Scherbakov, N, Pietrock C, Sandek A, Ebner N, Valentova M, Fiebach JB, Schefold JC, von Haehling S, Anker SD, Norman K, Haeusler KG, Doehner W. Body weight changes and cachexia after stroke. Journal of Cachexia, Sarcopenia and Muscle. 2019. doi10.1002/jcsm.12400.

About the ESC Council on Stroke

The ESC Council on Stroke promotes interdisciplinary cooperation, education, and research on stroke with the ultimate goal of reducing the burden of cardiovascular disease in Europe.

About ESC Heart & Stroke

ESC Heart & Stroke is an international conference of the ESC Council on Stroke. The conference is for all clinicians and scientists with a specific interest in the cardiovascular aspects of stroke.

About the European Society of Cardiology

The European Society of Cardiology brings together health care professionals from more than 150 countries, working to advance cardiovascular medicine and help people lead longer, healthier lives.

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