Sarcopenia, defined as loss of muscle mass and function, is increasingly recognized as a common consequence of advanced cirrhosis that is associated with adverse clinical outcomes. Despite the recent proliferation in publications pertaining to sarcopenia in end-stage liver disease, there remains no single ‘best method’ for its diagnosis. The inability to identify a gold standard is common to other specialties, including geriatrics from which many diagnostic tools are derived. Controversies in diagnosis have implications for the accuracy and reproducibility of cohort studies in the field, largely prohibit the introduction of sarcopenia measurement into routine patient care and impede the development of clinical trials to identify appropriate therapies. Difficulties in diagnosis are partly driven by our ongoing limited understanding of the pathophysiology of sarcopenia in cirrhosis, the mechanisms by which it impacts on patient outcomes, the heterogeneity of patient populations, and the accuracy, availability and cost of assessments of muscle mass and function. This review discusses the currently studied diagnostic methods for sarcopenia in cirrhosis, and outlines why reaching a consensus on sarcopenia diagnosis is important and suggests potential ways to improve diagnostic criteria to allow us to translate sarcopenia research into improvements in clinical care.
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