Health Services Research & Development

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Baker JF, Mostoufi-Moab S, Long J, Zemel B, Ibrahim S, Taratuta E, Leonard MB. Intramuscular Fat Accumulation and Associations With Body Composition, Strength, and Physical Functioning in Patients With Rheumatoid Arthritis. Arthritis care & research. 2018 Dec 1; 70(12):1727-1734.
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Abstract: OBJECTIVE: Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is associated with adverse body composition profiles and low muscle density due to the accumulation of intramuscular fat. Linear regression was used to assess differences between RA patients and controls and to determine associations between muscle density, strength, and physical functioning. METHODS: Patients with RA, ages 18-70 years, and healthy control subjects underwent whole-body dual x-ray absorptiometry and peripheral quantitative computed tomography, in order to quantify the appendicular lean mass index (ALMI) and the fat mass index (FMI), visceral fat area, and muscle density. Dynamometry was used to measure hand grip strength and muscle strength at the knee and lower leg. Disability and physical functioning were measured using the Health Assessment Questionnaire (HAQ) and the Short Physical Performance Battery (SPPB). Linear regression analyses were performed to assess differences related to RA and associations between muscle density, strength, and function. RESULTS: The study group included 103 patients with RA (51 men) and 428 healthy control subjects. Among patients with RA, low muscle density was associated with higher disease activity, C-reactive protein and interleukin-6 levels, greater total and visceral fat area, lower ALMI Z scores, physical inactivity, and long-term use of glucocorticoids (>1 year). Patients with low ALMI Z scores had lower muscle density Z scores compared with reference participants with similarly low ALMI scores. Low muscle density was independently associated with lower muscle strength, higher HAQ scores, and lower SPPB scores, after adjustment for ALMI and FMI Z scores. CONCLUSION: The low muscle density observed in patients with RA was associated with low muscle mass, excess adiposity, poor strength, and greater disability. Interventions to address poor muscle quality could potentially affect important functional outcomes.