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Anaesth Intensive Care. 2010 Sep;38(5):930-4.

Accuracy of weight and height estimation in an intensive care unit.

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Intensive Care Unit, Centre for Medical Education and Clinical Investigation "Norberto Quirno", Buenos Aires, Argentina.


We report the findings from a prospective study determining the magnitude of errors in the visual estimation of weight and height of critically ill patients. Forty-two consecutive patients were weighed by a physician with a calibrated stretcher scale and length measured with a steel measuring tape. The predicted body weight was calculated using the ARDSnet formulae. Attending physicians and nurses were asked to estimate patient's actual weight, predicted weight and height. The average percent errors in estimation of actual and predicted weight were 11.4 and 14.6%, respectively. Errors greater than 20% in patient's actual and predicted weight were observed in 15 and 24% of cases, respectively. The majority of height estimations (86%) had an error < 10%. There were non-significant differences between the estimations made by intensive care unit physicians and nurses. Our study shows that estimations of patient's weight made by intensive care unit staff are often inaccurate. In contrast, estimations of height made by intensive care unit staff are usually adequate. Estimated body weight of critically ill patients has implications for drug and respiratory therapy and should be used with caution.

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