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Research in Focus: A potential new screening tool for women at risk for progressive muscle loss

Monday, 29 June 2020

Sarcopenia is the loss of muscle mass, quality, and strength associated with ageing. It is progressive and is linked to physical disability, poor quality of life and earlier death.

Studies suggest that sarcopenia can be slowed and side effects reduced for people at risk by early interventions such as lifestyle changes or medication. This requires the early identification of people at risk of sarcopenia, however many people who could benefit are missing out due to the fact that current screening tests are complex and need to be performed by specialists.

Barwon Health and Deakin University researchers, through their work leading the world-renowned Geelong Osteoporosis Study, recognised that people at risk of osteoporosis (brittle bones) have similar risk factors to people at risk of sarcopenia. In this investigation, they used Geelong Osteoporosis Study data to test the accuracy of a simple web-based fracture risk calculator known as FRAX in identifying women at long term risk of sarcopenia.

The study showed that the FRAX calculator is likely to predict the 10-year risk for sarcopenia with high sensitivity and a high predictability. The finding that there were a number of false positives means it is unlikely to miss many who would progress to sarcopenia.

An important advantage is that the FRAX calculator identifies risk factors without the need for specialised equipment. Given that the FRAX online calculator is accessible and already used in clinical practice, there is potential for FRAX to be considered as a simple screening tool for early identification and intervention.

Title: Repurposing a Fracture Risk Calculator (FRAX) as a Screening Tool for Women at Risk for Sarcopenia

Authors: J A Pasco, M Mohebbi, M C Tembo, K L Holloway-Kew, N K Hyde, L J Williams, M A Kotowicz

Citation: Osteoporosis International Volume 31, pages 1389–1394 (2020)

Department: Endocrinology and Diabetes