Bioelectric impedance analysis for body composition measurement and other potential clinical applications in critical illness

Curr Opin Crit Care. 2021 Aug 1;27(4):344-353. doi: 10.1097/MCC.0000000000000840.


Purpose of review: Insight into body composition is of great value in the ICU. Bioelectric impedance analysis (BIA) is the most applicable bedside technique. However, bioimpedance has not been validated in the critically ill, and the interpretation of the measurements poses challenges. This review discusses the potential clinical applications of BIA and explores caveats and solutions to its use in the intensive care setting.

Recent findings: A correlation is repeatedly found between raw impedance parameters, fluid ratios, overhydration, and adverse outcome of critical illness. However, cut-off and reference values remain elusive. Experience with BIA-guided fluid management in the ICU is limited. BIA-derived muscle mass appears a promising biomarker for sarcopenia, correlating well with CT-analysis. Body cell mass and fat-free mass provide potential use in estimation of metabolic rate, protein requirements and pharmacokinetics. Several methods of reducing bias in BIA parameters in critical illness require validation.

Summary: There are currently too many uncertainties and discrepancies regarding interpretation of bioimpedance in critical illness, to justify therapeutic consequences. However, there are several promising areas of research, concerning some of the most urgent clinical problems in intensive care, emphasizing the need to evaluate further the use and interpretation of bioimpedance in the intensive care setting.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Body Composition
  • Critical Care
  • Critical Illness*
  • Electric Impedance
  • Humans
  • Water-Electrolyte Imbalance*