Sarcopenia and sarcopenic obesity: do they predict inferior oncologic outcomes after gastrointestinal cancer surgery?

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Perioperative Medicine


Geisel School of Medicine


Sarcopenia, or loss of skeletal muscle mass and quality, has been studied as part of aging and adverse health outcomes in elderly patients but has only recently been evaluated as a separate condition in cancer patients and important indicator of adverse outcomes. Currently, its definition and method of assessment are still being debated. Sarcopenia within an increasingly obese population has led to a subgroup with sarcopenic obesity, at even higher risk of adverse outcomes. Yet, sarcopenia often goes undiagnosed in these patients, hidden beneath higher body mass index. Identifying sarcopenic and sarcopenic obese subpopulations would allow for more effective treatment plans and potential avoidance of suboptimal outcomes, as well as the chance to intervene and combat these modifiable risk factors. This review will examine available literature on the definition and methods of evaluating sarcopenia and sarcopenic obesity, summarize the effectiveness of sarcopenia and sarcopenic obesity as predictors of outcomes after gastrointestinal cancer surgery, including colorectal cancer resection, liver resection, and pancreatic resection, and outline strategies to minimize the impact of sarcopenia. It is clear that untreated sarcopenia and sarcopenic obesity can be associated with suboptimal post-operative outcomes, especially infections and disease-free or overall survival.