Purpose of review: The bioelectrical impedance analysis is not a direct method for estimating body composition. Its accuracy depends on regression equations, and recent papers have suggested that this approach should not be used in several clinical situations. Another option is to obtain information about the electrical properties of tissues by using raw bioelectrical impedance measurements, resistance and reactance. They can be expressed as a ratio (phase angle) or as a plot (bioelectrical impedance vector analysis). This review describes their use in clinical practice.
Recent findings: The phase angle changes with sex and age. It is described as a prognostic tool in many clinical situations. There are some controversies about considering it as a nutritional marker. Studies in burn victims and sickle-cell disease corroborate its ability to evaluate cell membrane function. Bioelectrical impedance vector analysis allows a semi-quantitative estimation of body composition from information from tissue hydration and soft-tissue mass in a plot. It can be used in healthy individuals or patients, for a population or individual evaluation of fluid imbalance or an assessment of soft-tissue mass. It has also been used as a prognostic tool in dialysis and cancer patients.
Summary: The phase angle can be considered a global marker of health, and future studies are needed to prove its utility in intervention studies. Bioelectrical impedance vector analysis has increased its utility in clinical practice, even when the equations may be inaccurate for body composition analysis.