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Appl Radiat Isot. 1998 May-Jun;49(5-6):447-55.

Bioimpedance spectrometry in the determination of body water compartments: accuracy and clinical significance.

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  • 1Centre for Medical and Health Physics, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia.


Bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA) offers the potential for a simple, portable and relatively inexpensive technique for the in vivo measurement of total body water (TBW). The potential of BIA as a technique of body composition analysis is even greater when one considers that body water can be used as a surrogate measure of lean body mass. However, BIA has not found universal acceptance even with the introduction of multi-frequency BIA (MFBIA) which, potentially, may improve the predictive accuracy of the measurement. There are a number of reasons for this lack of acceptance, although perhaps the major reason is that no single algorithm has been developed which can be applied to all subject groups. This may be due, in part, to the commonly used wrist-to-ankle protocol which is not indicated by the basic theory of bioimpedance, where the body is considered as five interconnecting cylinders. Several workers have suggested the use of segmental BIA measurements to provide a protocol more in keeping with basic theory. However, there are other difficulties associated with the application of BIA, such as effects of hydration and ion status, posture and fluid distribution. A further putative advantage of MFBIA is the independent assessment not only of TBW but also of the extracellular fluid volume (ECW), hence heralding the possibility of being able to assess the fluid distribution between these compartments. Results of studies in this area have been, to date, mixed. Whereas strong relationships of impedance values at low frequencies with ECW, and at high frequencies with TBW, have been reported, changes in impedance are not always well correlated with changes in the size of the fluid compartments (assessed by alternative and more direct means) in pathological conditions. Furthermore, the theoretical advantages of Cole-Cole modelling over selected frequency prediction have not always been apparent. This review will consider the principles, methodology and applications of BIA. The principles and methodology will be considered in relation to the basic theory of BIA and difficulties experienced in its application. The relative merits of single and multiple frequency BIA will be addressed, with particular attention to the latter's role in the assessment of compartmental fluid volumes.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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