Pathophysiology of peripheral muscle wasting in cardiac cachexia

Gerasimos S. Filippatos, Stefan D. Anker, Dimitrios T. Kremastinos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose of review: Many different mechanisms have been proposed to explain muscle wasting in patients with heart failure; however, the pathogenesis remains largely obscure. This manuscript looks at current developments concerning the pathophysiology of skeletal muscle wasting in cardiac cachexia. Recent findings: Many studies have shown that malnutrition, malabsorption, metabolic dysfunction, anabolic/catabolic imbalance, inflammatory and neurohormonal activation, and cell death play an important role in the pathogenesis of wasting in cardiac cachexia. However, the aetiology of the muscle changes is not entirely clear. In biopsies of skeletal muscles from animals with cardiac cachexia increased rates of protein degradation have been observed, with increased activity of the ubiquitin-proteasome proteolytic pathway. Skeletal muscle apoptosis may also play a role in muscle atrophy and wasting and can be partly prevented by neurohormonal inhibition, but it has recently been reported that in cachectic patients with chronic heart failure apoptosis is not the main pathway of cell death and muscle loss. Summary: Many hypotheses have been used to explain the pathogenesis of muscle wasting in cardiac cachexia. Cardiac cachexia is a multifactorial disorder, and the targeting of different pathways will be necessary for effective treatment. The immune and neurohormonal abnormalities present in chronic heart failure may play a significant role in the pathogenesis of the wasting process. It has been suggested that common pathogenetic mechanisms underlie the loss of muscle mass in different cachectic states. More studies are needed to show whether there is a common pathway in cardiac cachexia and the other cachectic states.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)249-254
Number of pages6
JournalCurrent Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - May 2005


  • Apoptosis
  • Cachexia
  • Cytokines
  • Heart failure
  • Skeletal muscles
  • Wasting

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Endocrinology
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism


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