Prevalence and Overlap of Sarcopenia, Frailty, Cachexia and Malnutrition in Older Medical Inpatients

BMC Geriatrics
08 May, 2019 ,

Anne Gingrich et al investigated the prevalence of sarcopenia, frailty, cachexia and malnutrition and their overlap in older medical inpatients. From the Internal Medical Department of a German university hospital, they included 100 patients (48 female) aged 76.5 ± 4.7 years with a BMI of 27.6 ± 5.5 kg/m2. Gastroenterological (33%) and oncological diseases (31%) were mainly diagnosed in these patients. Sarcopenia, frailty, cachexia, and malnutrition were present in 42%, 33%, 32% and 15% of the patients, respectively. At least one syndrome was evident in 63%: 32% had one, 11% had two, 12% had three and 8% had all four. These findings suggest the presence of at least one of the tissue loss syndromes sarcopenia, frailty, cachexia, and malnutrition in approximately two-thirds of older medical inpatients and partial overlap and interrelation of the syndromes.

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Sarcopenia, frailty, cachexia and malnutrition are widespread syndromes in older people, characterized by loss of body tissue and related to poor outcome. The aim of the present cross-sectional study was to assess the prevalence of these syndromes and their overlap in older medical inpatients.


Patients aged 70 years or older who had been admitted to the internal medical department of a German university hospital were recruited. Sarcopenia, frailty, cachexia and malnutrition were assessed in a standardized manner according to current consensus definitions. Prevalence rates of these syndromes and their constituents and the concurrent occurrence of the syndromes (overlap) were calculated.


One hundred patients (48 female) aged 76.5 ± 4.7 years with a BMI of 27.6 ± 5.5 kg/m2 were included. The main diagnoses were gastroenterological (33%) and oncological diseases (31%). Sarcopenia was present in 42%, frailty in 33%, cachexia in 32% and malnutrition in 15% of the patients. 63% had at least one syndrome: 32% one, 11% two, 12% three and 8% all four. All four syndromes are characterized by significant weight loss during the last 12 months, which was most pronounced in malnourished patients and least pronounced in frail patients, and by significantly reduced physical performance. All syndromes were significantly pairwise related, except malnutrition and frailty. In 19% of patients sarcopenia and frailty occurred concurrently, in 20% frailty and cachexia and in 22% sarcopenia and cachexia with or without additional other syndromes. All malnourished patients except one were also cachectic (93%) and 80% of malnourished patients were also sarcopenic. 53% of malnourished patients were in addition frail, and these patients were affected by all four syndromes.


Nearly two thirds of older medical inpatients had at least one of the tissue loss syndromes sarcopenia, frailty, cachexia and malnutrition. The syndromes overlapped partly and were interrelated. Future studies with larger patient groups and longitudinal design are required to clarify the significance of single and concurrent occurrence of these syndromes for clinical outcome and successful therapy.