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The advantages and limitations of cross-sectional body composition analysis

MacDonald, Alisdair J.a; Greig, Carolyn A.b; Baracos, Vickiec

Current Opinion in Supportive and Palliative Care: December 2011 - Volume 5 - Issue 4 - p 342–349
doi: 10.1097/SPC.0b013e32834c49eb
Cachexia, nutrition and hydration: Edited by Michael J Tisdale and Aminah Jatoi

Purpose of review Cross-sectional (C-S) imaging is now commonly used to measure body composition in clinical studies. This review highlights the advantages, limitations and suggested future directions for this technique.

Recent findings Current understanding of C-S imaging reproducibility, tissue identification and segmentation methods, comparison between imaging techniques and estimates of whole body composition using a single image are described.

Summary C-S imaging can reliably measure muscle and fat distribution and uniquely discriminate between intra-abdominal organ and muscle component of fat-free mass. It precisely tracks changes within an individual, but is less able to distinguish true differences in whole body estimates between individuals.

aDepartment of Clinical and Surgical Sciences (Surgery)

bDepartment of Clinical and Surgical Sciences, School of Clinical Sciences and Community Health, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK

cDepartment of Oncology, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

Correspondence to Mr Alisdair J. MacDonald, Department of Clinical and Surgical Sciences (Surgery), School of Clinical Sciences and Community Health, University of Edinburgh, Room FU501, 1st Floor Chancellor's Building, 49 Little France Crescent, Edinburgh EH16 4SB, UKTel: +44 131 2429451; e-mail:

© 2011 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.