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Anaesthesia. 2003 Jan;58(1):50-5.

The importance of metabolic rate and the folly of body surface area calculations.

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Fellow in Anaesthesia and Pain Management, Prince of Wales Hospital, Braker St, Randwick, NSW 2031, Australia.


Mathematical formulae to calculate body surface area from measurements of height, weight and other parameters date from the late 19th century. Drug doses, fluid therapy, caloric requirements and physiological parameters such as cardiac output, glomerular filtration rate and a variety of respiratory function parameters are all frequently expressed in terms of a body surface area. Body surface area is often used in preference to body mass (weight). However, the original rationale for using body surface area as an estimate for metabolic rate has never been tested and the algorithms used to approximate body surface area have little evidence to support their use in this role. Recent developments in technology using indirect calorimetry allow easy measurement of metabolic rate in the clinical setting. Such measurements should be used for standardisation when weight alone is considered inadequate.

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