The use of bio-electrical impedance analysis (BIA) to guide fluid management, resuscitation and deresuscitation in critically ill patients: a bench-to-bedside review

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Manu L.N.G. Malbrain, Johan Huygh, Wojciech Dabrowski, Jan J. De Waele, Anneleen Staelens, Joost Wauters


The impact of a positive fluid balance on morbidity and mortality has been well established. However, little is known about how to monitor fluid status and fluid overload.

This narrative review summarises the recent literature and discusses the different parameters related to bio-electrical impedance analysis (BIA) and how they might be used to guide fluid management in critically ill patients. Definitions are listed for the different parameters that can be obtained with BIA; these include among others total body water (TBW), intracellular water (ICW), extracellular water (ECW), ECW/ICW ratio and volume excess (VE). BIA allows calculation of body composition and volumes by means of a current going through the body considered as a cylinder. Reproducible measurements can be obtained with tetrapolar electrodes with two current and two detection electrodes placed on hands and feet. Modern devices also apply multiple frequencies, further improving the accuracy and reproducibility of the results. Some pitfalls and conditions are discussed that need to be taken into account for correct BIA interpretation. Although BIA is a simple, noninvasive, rapid, portable, reproducible, and convenient method of measuring body composition and fluid distribution with fewer physical demands than other techniques, it is still unclear whether it is sufficiently accurate for clinical use in critically ill patients. However, the potential clinical applications are numerous.

An overview regarding the use of BIA parameters in critically ill patients is given, based on the available literature. BIA seems a promising tool if performed correctly. It is non-invasive and relatively inexpensive and can be performed at bedside, and it does not expose to ionising radiation. Modern devices have very limited between-observer variations, but BIA parameters are population-specific and one must be aware of clinical situations that may interfere with the measurement such as visible oedema, nutritional status, or fluid and salt administration. BIA can help guide fluid management, resuscitation and de-resuscitation. The latter is especially important in patients not progressing spontaneously from the Ebb to the Flow phase of shock. More research is needed in critically ill patients before widespread use of BIA can be suggested in this patient population.

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