European Respiratory Society

Bedside methods versus dual energy X‐ray absorptiometry for body composition measurement in COPD

M.C. Steiner, R.L. Barton, S.J. Singh, M.D.L. Morgan


The measurement of body composition is of value in the nutritional assessment of patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The purpose of the present study was to compare two bedside methods for the measurement of body composition using dual energy X‐ray absorptiometry (DEXA) as a reference method.

Fat-free mass (FFM) was measured using DEXA, bioelectric impedance analysis (BIA) and skinfold anthropometry (SFA) in a cohort of 85 COPD patients accepted for pulmonary rehabilitation. Patients whose body mass index was >30 were excluded.

Relative to DEXA, BIA underestimated FFM, whereas it was overestimated by SFA. There was a systematic increase in bias with mean FFM for both DEXA versus BIA and DEXA versus SFA, but this was almost eliminated when results were expressed as FFM index. Significant sex differences in the bias of BIA and SFA measurements of FFM were found. Forty-two (49.4%) patients were identified as nutritionally depleted using DEXA. Compared to DEXA, the sensitivity for detecting nutritional depletion was 86 and 74% for BIA and SFA, respectively, and the specificity 88 and 98%, respectively.

There are significant intermethod differences in the measurement of body composition in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease patients. The choice of measurement method will have implications for nutritional assessment in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

This study was supported, in part, by Nutricia, Zoetermeer, the Netherlands.


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