Researchers have identified a new technique that can help determine the severity of muscle loss in critically ill patients. The breakthrough could lead to new research to help prevent muscle-wasting and new therapeutic interventions to help treat critically ill patients.
The results of the study will be presented today (2 September 2012) at the European Respiratory Society's Annual Congress in Vienna.
Patients who are critically ill with multi-organ failure often have significant muscle wasting after recovering from their illness. This can delay their discharge from an intensive care unit and is a major cause of disability affecting quality of life once patients have left the hospital.
Until now, there has been no clinically useful way of measuring muscle wastage, or identifying patients who are at a high-risk of this. The researchers hypothesised that they could measure the rectus femoris, one of the four quadriceps muscles in the leg, to determine the level of muscle wasting.
63 patients were recruited to the study within 24 hours of admission to hospital. Muscle wasting was assessed using an ultrasound to measure muscle circumference of the rectus femoris. Researchers also monitored the number of failed organ systems during the patient's time in intensive care, to assess which patients were at a high risk of muscle wasting.