Last revised by Daniel J Bell on 7 Apr 2020

Atrophy is a reduction in the size of an organ/tissue. Microscopically this is a reduction in cell size/volume caused by a reduction in protein synthesis and/or increased protein degradation 1.

Atrophy may be physiologic or pathological.

Physiological atrophy is commonly seen in the normal development of embryological structures (e.g. notochord) 1 or the female pelvic organs postmenopause.

Pathological atrophy can have many causes, including:

  • inadequate nutrition
  • reduced workload/usage, such as the reduction of skeletal muscle volume with disuse post fracture
  • denervation leading to skeletal muscle atrophy
  • decreased endocrine/neuroendocrine stimulation
  • ischemia/reduction of blood supply 1

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