Gastroenterology, Department of Clinical Medicine, "Sapienza" University of Rome, Rome, Italy, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Muscle depletion is frequently encountered in cirrhotic patients. As muscle may represents an alternative site of ammonia detoxification in liver diseases, our study was aimed at investigating whether a decrease in muscle mass or function may independently influence the prevalence of neurocognitive alterations in cirrhosis. Three-hundred consecutive hospitalized cirrhotic patients were prospectively enrolled. Liver function, a complete neurocognitive assessment for the diagnosis of clinical or subclinical hepatic encephalopathy (HE) and parameters of nutritional status and muscle function were evaluated in each patient at admission. Clinically overt HE, at admission or in the last 12 months, or a diagnosis of minimal HE were significantly higher in cirrhotic patients with muscle depletion or decreased muscle strength. The fasting venous blood ammonia concentrations were also higher in this group. Muscle depletion was an independent risk factor at multivariate analysis both for overt and minimal HE. In conclusion cirrhotic patients with muscle depletion are at higher risk of HE and the amelioration of nutritional status is a possible goal to decrease the prevalence of neurocognitive alterations in these patients.