Background & aims: Sarcopenia and cachexia are characterized by infiltration of non-contractile tissue within muscle which influences area and volume measurements. We applied a statistical clustering (k-means) technique to magnetic resonance (MR) images of the quadriceps of young and elderly healthy women and women with cancer to objectively separate the contractile and non-contractile tissue compartments.
Methods: MR scans of the thigh were obtained for 34 women (n = 16 young, (median) age 26 y: n = 9 older, age 80 y; n = 9 upper gastrointestinal cancer patients, age 65 y). Segmented regions of consecutive axial images were used to calculate cross-sectional area and (gross) volume. The k-means unsupervised algorithm was subsequently applied to the MR binary mask image array data with resultant volumes compared between groups.
Results: Older women and women with cancer had 37% and 48% less quadriceps muscle respectively than young women (p < 0.001). Application of k-means subtracted a significant 9%, 14% and 20% non-contractile tissue from the quadriceps of young, older and patient groups respectively (p < 0.001). There was a significant effect of group (i.e., cancer vs healthy) when controlling for age as a covariate (p = 0.003).
Conclusions: K-means objectively separates contractile and non-contractile tissue components. Women with upper GI cancer have significant fatty infiltration throughout whole muscle groups which is maintained when controlling for age.
- Magnetic resonance imaging
- Image processing
- Cluster analysis
- Skeletal muscle