Skeletal muscle failure in critical illness (intensive care unit-acquired weakness) is a well-known complication developing early during intensive care unit stay. However, muscle weakness during the perioperative setting has not yet been investigated.
We performed a subgroup investigation of a prospective observational trial to investigate perioperative muscle weakness. Eighty-nine patients aged 65 years or older were assessed for handgrip strength preoperatively, on the first postoperative day, at intensive care unit discharge, at hospital discharge, and at 3-month follow-up. Functional status was evaluated perioperatively via Barthel index, instrumental activities of daily living, Timed Up and Go test, and functional independence measure. After exclusion of patients with intensive care unit-acquired weakness or intensive care unit stay of ≥72 hours, 59 patients were included into our analyses. Of these, 14 patients had additional pulmonary function tests preoperatively and on postoperative day 1. Blood glucose was measured intraoperatively every 20 minutes.
Handgrip strength significantly decreased after surgery on postoperative day 1 by 16.4% (P < .001). Postoperative pulmonary function significantly decreased by 13.1% for vital capacity (P = .022) and 12.6% for forced expiratory volume in 1 second (P = .001) on postoperative day 1. Handgrip strength remained significantly reduced at hospital discharge (P = .016) and at the 3-month follow-up (P = .012). Perioperative glucose levels showed no statistically significant impact on muscle weakness. Instrumental activities of daily living (P < .001) and functional independence measure (P < .001) were decreased at hospital discharge, while instrumental activities of daily living remained decreased at the 3-month follow-up (P = .026) compared to preoperative assessments.
Perioperatively acquired weakness occurred, indicated by a postoperatively decreased handgrip strength, decreased respiratory muscle function, and impaired functional status, which partly remained up to 3 months.