Reliability of B-mode ultrasonic measurements of subcutaneous adipose tissue and intra-abdominal depth: comparisons with skinfold thicknesses

Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 1993 Aug;17(8):475-80.


Adipose tissue deposits, particularly intra-abdominal adipose tissue, are associated with health risks such as diabetes mellitus and cardiovascular disease. Anthropometric techniques currently in use can measure subcutaneous adipose tissue (SAT) with skinfold calipers, but are limited to certain sites and cannot measure intra-abdominal adipose tissue (IAAT). Radiography, computerized tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) have been used, but they are expensive and some involve exposure to radiation. This study, which investigated the utility of B-mode ultrasound for measuring adipose tissue, found that ultrasonic measurements of SAT were as reliable as skinfold caliper measurements. Intra-observer and inter-observer coefficients of reliability for five of six ultrasonic measurements of SAT ranged from 91-98%, in comparison with coefficients of reliability ranging from 93-98% for three skinfold measurements. Coefficients of reliability for ultrasonic measurements of SAT at the paraspinal site were below 90%. Ultrasonic measurements of intra-abdominal depth (IAD), an index of IAAT, yielded an inter-observer coefficient of reliability of 64%. Ultrasound is recommended for measurement of subcutaneous adipose tissue but not for measurement of IAD.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Abdomen
  • Adipose Tissue / anatomy & histology
  • Adipose Tissue / diagnostic imaging*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Observer Variation
  • Regression Analysis
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sex Factors
  • Skinfold Thickness*
  • Ultrasonography / methods