Muscle Mass Loss in the Older Critically Ill Population: Potential Therapeutic Strategies
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Skeletal muscle plays a critical role in everyday life, and its age-associated reduction has severe health consequences. The pre-existing presence of sarcopenia, combined with anabolic resistance, protein undernutrition, and the pro-catabolic/anti-anabolic milieu induced by aging and exacerbated in critical care, may accelerate the rate at which skeletal muscle is lost in patients with critical illness. Advancements in intensive care unit (ICU)-care provision have drastically improved survival rates; therefore, attention can be redirected toward other significant issues affecting ICU patients (e.g., length of stay, days on ventilation, nosocomial disease development, etc.). Thus, strategies targeting muscle mass and function losses within an ICU setting are essential to improve patient-related outcomes. Notably, loading exercise and protein provision are the most compelling. Many older ICU patients seldom meet the recommended protein intake, and loading exercise is difficult to conduct in the ICU. Nevertheless, the incorporation of physical therapy (PT), neuromuscular electrical stimulation, and early mobilization strategies may be beneficial. Furthermore, a number of nutrition practices within the ICU have been shown to improve patient-related outcomes ((e.g., feeding strategy [i.e., oral, early enteral, or parenteral]), be hypocaloric (∼70%-80% energy requirements), and increase protein provision (∼1.2-2.5 g/kg/d)). The aim of this brief review is to discuss the dysregulation of muscle mass maintenance in an older ICU population and highlight the potential benefits of strategic nutrition practice, specifically protein, and PT within the ICU. Finally, we provide some general guidelines that may serve to counteract muscle mass loss in patients with critical illness.