A study assessing patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) found that each annual respiratory exacerbation is associated with excess muscle loss equivalent to six months of age-related decline, according to an article published in Thorax.
The analysis included 5,716 participants from two cohorts of ever-smokers, using serial measurements of computed tomography (CT) derived pectoralis muscle area (PMA) to assess the relationship between acute respiratory events and long-term muscle loss. Any increase in respiratory symptoms requiring antibiotics or systemic steroids were considered to be respiratory events or exacerbations.
The results show that exacerbations were common in both cohorts, which were associated with accelerated loss of skeletal muscle over the three- and five-year periods of observation. This association was present in both men and women with COPD, as well as for current and former smokers at risk for COPD.
These findings indicate that those who have one exacerbation per year would be expected to lose one and a half times their age-expected muscle area, while a person who has two exacerbations per year would lose twice their age expected muscle area in that year, the authors say.
Further work is needed to determine whether pulmonary rehabilitation attenuates muscle loss.