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Ultrasound-based detection of glucocorticoid-induced impairments of muscle mass and structure in Cushing’s disease



To investigate the glucocorticoid-induced impairments of muscle mass and structure in patients presenting different stages of steroid myopathy progression.


Thirty-three patients (28 women) affected by active (N = 20) and remitted (N = 13) Cushing’s disease were recruited and the following variables were assessed: walking speed, handgrip strength, total body and appendicular muscle mass by bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA), thickness and echo intensity of lower limb muscles by ultrasonography.


The two groups of patients showed comparable values of both handgrip strength [median (interquartile range) values: active disease: 27.4 (7.5) kg vs. remitted disease: 26.4 (9.4) kg; P = 0.58] and walking speed [active disease: 1.0 (0.2) m/s vs. remitted disease: 1.1 (0.3) m/s; P = 0.43]. Also, the thickness of the four muscles and all BIA-derived sarcopenic indices were comparable (P > 0.05 for all comparisons) between the two groups. On the contrary, the echo intensity of vastus lateralis, tibialis anterior (lower portion), and medial gastrocnemius was significantly (P < 0.05 for all comparisons) higher in patients with active disease compared to patients with remitted disease. Finally, significant negative correlations were found in the whole group of patients between muscle echo intensity and muscle function assessments.


We provided preliminary evidence that the ultrasound-derived measurements of muscle thickness and echo intensity can be useful to detect and track the changes of muscle mass and structure in patients with steroid myopathy and we suggest that the combined assessment of muscle mass, strength, and performance should be systematically applied in the routine examination of steroid myopathy patients.

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Correspondence to M. A. Minetto.

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The study was approved by the local ethics committee. The study conformed with the guidelines in the Declaration of Helsinki and was approved by the local ethics committee.

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All patients received a detailed explanation of the study and gave written informed consent prior to participation.

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Minetto, M.A., Caresio, C., Salvi, M. et al. Ultrasound-based detection of glucocorticoid-induced impairments of muscle mass and structure in Cushing’s disease. J Endocrinol Invest 42, 757–768 (2019).

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  • Bioelectrical impedance analysis
  • Echo intensity
  • Muscle thickness
  • Muscle ultrasonography
  • Sarcopenia
  • Steroid myopathy