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Abstract

Objective

Patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) lose body cell mass (BCM) by unknown mechanisms. Since the loss of BCM in normal aging individuals parallels the characteristic age-related decline in growth hormone (GH) secretion, this study was carried out to determine whether further decreased GH secretion plays a role in the pathogenesis of this loss of BCM in RA patients, termed “rheumatoid cachexia.”

Methods

GH secretory kinetics were determined by deconvolution analysis in 16 patients with RA and 17 healthy controls matched for age (mean ± SD 45.4 ± 13.2 years and 47.1 ± 14.6 years, respectively), sex, race, and body mass index. Blood samples were obtained every 20 minutes for 24 hours. Body composition was ascertained using total-body potassium (TBK) as a measure of BCM and dual x-ray absorptiometry to determine fat mass.

Results

BCM was reduced in patients with RA compared with healthy controls (mean ± SD gm TBK 79.5 ± 9.5 versus 94.9 ± 11.9; P < 0.0005), but there was no difference in fat mass. GH kinetic parameters in patients with RA did not differ from those in controls.

Conclusion

These findings suggest that GH kinetics are unaltered in RA patients compared with healthy subjects; thus, GH deficiency does not account for rheumatoid cachexia.