Does malnutrition affect survival in cirrhosis?



A total of 1,053 cirrhotic patients were included in a prospective study to determine whether malnutrition is a risk factor for mortality in cirrhotic patients. Child-Pugh classification as well as clinical and biochemical variables were used to assess the severity of cirrhosis. Nutritional status was evaluated both by anthropometric and clinical measurements. Patients were defined as malnourished when midarm muscle area (MAMA) and/or midarm fat area (MAFA) were below the 5th percentile of an age- and sex-matched population. During follow-up, 419 patients died. The estimated survival rate was 82.7% at 1 year, 65.1% at 3 years, and 50.7% at 5 years. The presence of muscle depletion and/or of a steep reduction in fat deposits was associated with a higher risk of mortality (midarm muscle area, < 5th percentile, relative risk = 1.79; midarm fat area, < 5th percentile, relative risk = 1.35). When patients were stratified according to the Child-Pugh classification, cumulative survival was lower in patients with a reduction in muscle mass in Child-Pugh classes A and B (log rank: P = .027; P = .022, respectively) but not in class C. Conversely, a significant reduction in adipose tissue deposits appeared to have no independent impact on survival in any Child-Pugh class. When examined using a multivariate Cox proportional hazard analysis, age, sex, bilirubin, cholinesterase, ascites, and esophageal varices were selected, whereas the parameters of nutritional status were not. This suggests that malnutrition, while strongly associated with the deterioration of liver function, cannot be considered an independent risk factor for mortality in a general population of cirrhotic patients.