Background & aims
Systemic sclerosis (SSc) commonly affects the gastrointestinal (GI) tract and predisposes to malnutrition. Few studies assessed body composition in outpatients with SSc or used more than one method for comparison over time. The aim of this study was to describe markers of nutrition and body composition in patients with SSc and to identify predictors of unintentional weight loss.
We consecutively included outpatients with SSc and performed a one-year follow-up. Gastrointestinal (GI) involvement was evaluated from clinical investigations. Patients completed questionnaires for organ involvement and functional status. Clinical assessment included body mass index (BMI), the malnutrition universal screening tool (MUST), inter-incisor distance, anthropometry, and bio-electrical impedance analysis (BIA).
In total, 168 consecutive patients with SSc were included, and 127 (76%) completed one-year follow-up. Thirteen (8%) died before follow-up. Based on MUST scores, 12% of patients were at high and 14% at medium risk of malnutrition. A low BMI was associated with small intestinal involvement (p < 0.0001). Percentage body fat correlated with BMI, both when using four-site anthropometry (r = 0.65, p < 0.01) and BIA (r = 0.49, p < 0.01). Nine (7%) patients had >5% unintentional weight loss at follow-up. Independent baseline predictors of unintentional weight loss included upper GI involvement and disease severity estimated by Health Assessment Questionnaire Disability Index score.
Nutritional risk and GI involvement are frequent and closely correlated in patients with SSc. BIA and four-site anthropometry are comparable in the clinical assessment of patients with SSc. Unintentional weight loss is discrete and related to disease-specific characteristics.