Muscle mass assessment in renal disease: the role of imaging techniques

Alice Sabatino, Claudia D'Alessandro, Giuseppe Regolisti, Francesca di Mario, Giuseppe Guglielmi, Alberto Bazzocchi, Enrico Fiaccadori

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Muscle wasting is a frequent finding in patients with chronic kidney disease (CKD), especially in those with end-stage kidney disease (ESKD) on chronic dialysis. Muscle wasting in CKD is a main feature of malnutrition, and results principally from a vast array of metabolic derangements typical of the syndrome, that converge in determining reduced protein synthesis and accelerated protein catabolism. In this clinical setting, muscle wasting is also frequently associated with disability, frailty, infections, depression, worsened quality of life and increased mortality. On these grounds, the evaluation of nutritional status is crucial for an adequate management of renal patients, and consists of a comprehensive assessment allowing for the identification of malnourished patients and patients at nutritional risk. It is based essentially on the assessment of the extent and trend of body weight loss, as well as of spontaneous dietary intake. Another key component of this evaluation is the determination of body composition, which, depending on the selected method among several ones available, can identify accurately patients with decreased muscle mass. The choice will depend on the availability and ease of application of a specific technique in clinical practice based on local experience, staff resources and good repeatability over time. Surrogate methods, such as anthropometry and bioimpedance analysis (BIA), represent the most readily available techniques. Other methods based on imaging modalities [dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and whole body computed tomography (CT)] are considered to be the "gold standard" reference methods for muscle mass evaluation, but their use is mainly confined to research purposes. New imaging modalities, such as segmental CT scan and muscle ultrasound have been proposed in recent years. Particularly, ultrasound is a promising technique in this field, as it is commonly available for bedside evaluation of renal patients in nephrology wards. However, more data are needed before a routine use of ultrasound for muscle mass evaluation can be recommended in clinical practice.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1672-1686
Number of pages15
JournalQuantitative Imaging in Medicine and Surgery
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2020


  • Body composition
  • chronic kidney disease (CKD)
  • end-stage kidney disease (ESKD)
  • muscle loss
  • ultrasound


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