December 7, 2023


In pathology, the term atrophy describes a loss of tissue or a decrease in the size of an organ. It is a non-cancerous change. This change can happen anywhere in the body. It is a description of the changes seen when the tissue is examined under the microscope. It is not a diagnosis.

Common causes of atrophy include:
  • Decreased blood supply – All organs and tissues require blood to survive. When the amount of blood to an organ or tissue decreases for a long period, the organ or tissue compensates by decreasing in size. Tissues surrounding a large tumour often undergo atrophy because the pressure of the tumour decreases blood flow.
  • Disuse – Organs or tissues that are not used regularly may decrease in size as a result of atrophy. This commonly happens to muscles that are not used after an injury. This type of atrophy can often be seen without the help of a microscope.
  • Decreased stimulation by hormones – Atrophy is commonly seen in organs that are stimulated by hormones such as the breast and the endometrium (the tissue that lines the inside of the uterus). The hormones that stimulate these organs decrease with age which leads to this change.

Related articles

Atrophy of the ovary

About this article

This article was written by doctors to help you read and understand your pathology report. Contact us if you have questions about this article or your pathology report. For a complete introduction to your pathology report, read this article.

Other helpful resources

Atlas of pathology
A+ A A-