Sarcopenia – the greatest threat to aging. How at risk are our sub-acute patients?

Shelly Casey1, Lilliana Barone1

1Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District, Port Kembla Hospital, Australia

Background: Sarcopenia is a muscle disease that results in decreased muscle strength, mass and function. It is a disease usually associated with aging however it is now recognised that Sarcopenia can begin as early as age 50. Sarcopenia is a major contributor to disability and loss of independence particularly amongst older persons and is associated with large personal and financial costs and has been identified as one of the greatest threats to healthy and independent aging.

In 2018 a global consensus group developed an evidence-based algorithm for the identification and diagnosis of sarcopenia. This was adopted by the Illawarra and Shoalhaven Local Health District (ISLHD) Dietetic and Physiotherapy departments.

Aim: To identify patients with sarcopenia admitted to two sub-acute ISLHD sites.

Methods: Patients admitted were screened using the validated SARC-F tool for muscle functionality. Hand grip strength was measured in patients screened positive. A low grip strength indicated probable sarcopenia.

A muscle quantity test was completed via bio-electrical impedance analysis (BIA) to confirm diagnosis.

Patients diagnosed with sarcopenia are invited to complete a validated Sarcopenia Quality of life tool (SarQoL).

Results: Data collected from March 2020-March 2021 showed the prevalence of probable sarcopenia in 339 patients to be 45% (n=153). The consensus group states that this is enough to trigger assessment of causes and start intervention.

69 patients with probable sarcopenia completed a BIA of which 45% (n=31) had a confirmed diagnosis.

Conclusion: Screening for and identifying sarcopenia will allow for timely interventions to improve patient outcomes and quality of life.


Shelly Casey and Lilliana Barone are senior Dietitians working in the Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District. In their role as the Aged Care Clinical Lead Dietitians they have facilitated numerous research projects including the development and implementation of a protocol to diagnose sarcopenia in the sub acute and outpatient setting.

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