Background: Body composition measures, specifically low weight or reduced muscle mass, are associated with mortality in COPD, but the effect of longitudinal body composition changes is undefined. Research Question: Is the longitudinal loss of fat-free mass (FFM) associated with increased mortality, including in those with initially normal or elevated body composition metrics? Study Design and Methods: Participants with complete data for at least one visit in the COPDGene study (n = 9,268) and the ECLIPSE study (n = 1,760) were included and monitored for 12 and 8 years, respectively. Pectoralis muscle area (PMA) was derived from thoracic CT scans and used as a proxy for FFM. A longitudinal mixed submodel for PMA and a Cox proportional hazards submodel for survival were fitted on a joint distribution, using a shared random intercept parameter and Markov chain Monte Carlo parameter estimation. Results: Both cohorts demonstrated a left-shifted distribution of baseline FFM, not reflected in BMI, and an increase in all-cause mortality risk associated with longitudinal loss of PMA. For each 1-cm2 PMA loss, mortality increased 3.1% (95% CI, 2.4%-3.7%; P < .001) in COPDGene, and 2.4% (95% CI, 0.9%-4.0%; P < .001) in ECLIPSE. Increased mortality risk was independent of enrollment values for BMI and disease severity [BODE (body mass, airflow obstruction, dyspnea, and exercise capacity) index quartiles] and was significant even in participants with initially greater than average PMA. Interpretation: Longitudinal loss of PMA is associated with increased all-cause mortality, regardless of BMI or initial muscle mass. Consideration of novel screening tests and further research into mechanisms contributing to muscle decline may improve risk stratification and identify novel therapeutic targets in ever smokers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)960-970
Number of pages11
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2022


  • COPD
  • mortality
  • muscle wasting
  • sarcopenia


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