Cardiac cachexia

Stefan D. Anker, Wolfram Steinborn, Sabine Strassburg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Chronic heart failure (CHF) remains an important and increasing public health care problem. It is a complex syndrome affecting many body systems. Body wasting (i.e., cardiac cachexia) has long been recognised as a serious complication of CHF. Cardiac cachexia is associated with poor prognosis, independently of functional disease severity, age, and measures of exercise capacity and cardiac function. Patients with cardiac cachexia suffer from a general loss of fat tissue, lean tissue, and bone tissue. Cachectic CHF patients are weaker and fatigue earlier, which is due to both reduced skeletal muscle mass and impaired muscle quality. The pathophysiologic alterations leading to cardiac cachexia remain unclear, but there is increasing evidence that metabolic, neurohormonal and immune abnormalities may play an important role. Cachectic CHF patients show raised plasma levels of epinephrine, norepinephrine, and cortisol, and they show high plasma renin activity and increased plasma aldosterone level. Several studies have also shown that cardiac cachexia is linked to raised plasma levels of tumour necrosis factor alpha and other inflammatory cytokines. The degree of body wasting is 1 strongly correlated with neurohormonal and immune abnormalities. The available evidence suggests that cardiac cachexia is a multifactorial neuroendocrine and metabolic disorder with a poor prognosis. A complex imbalance of different body systems may cause the development of body wasting.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)518-529
Number of pages12
JournalAnnals of Medicine
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2004


  • Body wasting
  • Chronic heart failure
  • Cytokines
  • Immune activation
  • Neurohormones
  • Nutrition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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