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Blogpost by Lotte Cuypers

  • October 14, 2020

Stroke-induced muscle wasting: 
What? How? and Why? 


WHAT is stroke-induced muscle wasting?

Stroke is one of the leading causes of physical disability in the adult population. Rehabilitation is therefore an important part of the recovery process for stroke survivors to become as independent as possible and to attain the best quality of life. Although stroke rehabilitation has gained tremendous progress in the past decades, up to 60% of the stroke survivors remain disabled. The skeletal muscle is suggested to be the main effector organ accountable for this chronic, long-term disability. A myriad of skeletal muscles changes occur as a result of stroke, including, but not limited to decreased muscle strength, loss of muscle mass and structural adaptations of the muscle tissue (e.g. phenotype switch). These changes are referred to as stroke-induced muscle wasting and recently became a focus in the evaluation and treatment of stroke survivors.  


HOW is stroke-induces muscle wasting caused? 

Traditionally, muscle wasting that occurs after stroke is contributed to the damaged brain area itself. However, available evidence from recent studies shows that post-stroke changes in skeletal muscles can’t entirely be explained by the lesion itself. Moreover, stroke literature of the past decades underpins a multifactorial origin of stroke-induced muscle wasting were a combination of denervation, disuse, inflammation, structural adaptations and metabolic integrity of the peripheral muscle tissue are all contributing factors to this complex phenomenon. 


WHY can stroke-induced muscle wasting be important in stroke research? 

The underlying mechanisms of muscle wasting after stroke are incompletely understood. Unravelling this black box could help us better understand the complex stroke recovery process and lay foundations for any conceivable advantage in future stroke rehabilitation programmes.  


Lotte Cuypers

PhD researcher and teaching assistant at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel and member of the Rehabilitation Research (RERE) group. Her research focuses on muscle trajectories and their relationship to recovery in the acute stroke patients.


References and further reading: 

Bernhardt J, Hayward KS, Kwakkel G, et al. Agreed definitions and a shared vision for new standards in stroke recovery research: The Stroke Recovery and Rehabilitation Roundtable taskforce. Int J Stroke. 2017;12(5):444–450. Available from:

Scherbakov N, Sandek A, Doehner W. Stroke-related sarcopenia: specific characteristics. J Am Med Dir Assoc. 2015;16(4):272–276. Available from:

Hunnicutt JL, Gregory CM. Skeletal muscle changes following stroke: a systematic review and comparison to healthy individuals. Top Stroke Rehabil. 2017;24(6):463–471. Available from: