Beta-blockade guards burn victims' muscle

11:17am, October 24, 2001

A medication that reduces the risk of heart attack also can diminish a muscle-wasting metabolic response common among victims of severe trauma or illness, researchers have discovered by studying young burn patients.

In the aftermath of injuries or burns or during serious illnesses, victims typically exhibit higher metabolism, rapid protein breakdown, and difficulty making new muscle tissue. Even with plenty of nutrition, severely injured or ill patients can suffer metabolic breakdown of muscle mass, or muscle catabolism. During prolonged recoveries, patients can catabolize up to one-tenth of their muscle mass despite putting on weight.

Drugs known as beta-blockers are widely used to regulate heart rate and blood pressure in patients with heart conditions. The drugs inhibit the function of hormones such as epinephrine and other so-called catecholamines, already known to play a major role in post-traumatic hypermetabolism.

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