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(ăt`rəfē), diminution in the size of a cell, tissue, or organ from its fully developed normal size. Temporary atrophy may occur in muscles that are not used, as when a limb is encased in a plaster cast. Interference with cellular nutrition, as through starvation; diseases affecting the nerve supply of tissues, e.g., poliomyelitis and muscular dystrophy; and prolonged disuse may cause a permanent wasting away of tissue. Atrophy may also follow hypertrophyhypertrophy
, enlargement of a tissue or organ of the body resulting from an increase in the size of its cells. Such growth accompanies an increase in the functioning of the tissue. In normal physiology the growth in size of muscles (e.g.
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the decrease in the size of an organ or tissue of the living organism of animals and man, accompanied by a disorder or cessation of functions. Atrophy is the result of a predominance of dissimilation over the processes of assimilation.

Atrophy can be physiological and pathological, systemic and local. Physiological atrophy is a function of the growth changes of an organism (atrophy of the thymus during puberty, atrophy of the sex glands, skin, and bones in old people, and so on). General pathological atrophy (emaciation, cachexia) appears in cases of insufficient nutrition, chronic infection or intoxication, or disorders of the endocrine glands or of the central nervous system. Local pathological atrophy arises from various causes—from a disorder in the regulation of the trophic nerves (for example, atrophy of the skeletal muscles during poliomyelitis), from insufficient supply of blood (for example, atrophy of the brain cortex during atherosclerosis of the blood vessels of the brain); dysfunctional atrophy (for example, atrophy of the optic nerve after removal of an eye), as a result of pressure (for example, atrophy of the kidney in cases of embolism of the urether and accumulation of urine in the renal pelvis), from lack of use (for example, atrophy of the muscles in the extremities after long immobilization), or from the effects of physiological and chemical factors (for example, atrophy of the lymphoid tissue from the effects of solar energy, atrophy of the thyroid gland upon application of iodine preparations).

When an organ atrophies it diminishes in size but subsequently sometimes appears larger as a result of the expansion of fat tissue which replaces the atrophied cellular elements. Pathological atrophy is, up to a certain stage, a reversible process. Treatment consists of the elimination of the causes producing atrophy.


Strukov, A. I. Patologicheskaia anatomiia. Moscow, 1967.
Cameron, G. R. Pathology of the Cell. Edinburgh, 1952.



Diminution in the size of a cell, tissue, or organ that was once fully developed and of normal size.


a wasting away of an organ or part, or a failure to grow to normal size as the result of disease, faulty nutrition, etc.
References in periodicals archive ?
However, our results show the role of apoptosis in villous atrophy in celiac disease.
Another marker which has shown to correlate well to villous atrophy is IgA F-actin antibodies (AAA).
During the first year alone, there was a total of 125 incident cancers in the villous atrophy cohort, for a hazard ratio of 5.
These findings suggest a diagnosis of refractory celiac disease, which is characterized by persistent villous atrophy with an increase of intraepithelial lymphocytes in the small bowel while the patient is on a long-term gluten-free diet.
The duodenum showed marked mucosal distortion with villous atrophy, ulceration, acute inflammation, and poorly formed granulomas (Fig.
Only a minority of patients had mild histological changes (Marsh type II and IIIa); most patients showed severe villous atrophy (Marsh IIIb or IIIc).
Chronic gastrointestinal symptoms persisted for 12 weeks before endoscopy, when variable crypt hyperplasia and villous atrophy were noted--characteristic findings in small bowel biopsies of patients with Cyclospora infection (5).
With positive serologic results and a biopsy that shows the characteristic findings of intraepithelial lymphocytosis, crypt hyperplasia, and villous atrophy, a presumptive diagnosis of CD can be made.
CD patients with positive serum EmA and/or anti-tTG assay results clearly showed more severe intestinal mucosal lesions; severe or total villous atrophy (grade 3b or 3c) was seen in 25% and 35% of this group, respectively (vs seronegative CD patients, P <0.
62) These individuals often demonstrate various histopathologic features on GI biopsy, including villous atrophy and crypt hyperplasia, as well as prominent epithelial apoptosis and nonspecific inflammation (in both small and large bowel).
Most celiac disease patients (90%) will have a Marsh III lesion on biopsy, which includes partial, subtotal, and total villous atrophy.
The histopathologic findings were classified according to internationally accepted criteria as normal mucosa, partial villous atrophy (slight, moderate, or severe), and subtotal villous atrophy (22).