Body composition and water compartment measurements in boys with Duchenne muscular dystrophy

Craig M McDonald, Gregory T. Carter, Richard T. Abresch, Lana Widman, Dennis M Styne, Nancy Warden, David D. Kilmer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


Objective: Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) patients have a lower percentage of total body water and higher extracellular water to intracellular water (ECW/ICW) ratio compared with normal subjects. However, it is not known whether this is due to increased fat mass or a decreased amount of ICW in muscle cells in DMD patients. The purpose of this study was to (1) determine the effect of increased fat mass and decreased lean mass on the ECW to ICW ratio in DMD patients and to (2) determine the validity of multifrequency bioelectrical impedance analysis (MFBIA) in assessing body composition in DMD patients. Design: This study has a quasi-experimental, comparative design using nonequivalent groups. A total of 46 boys ranging from 6 to 13 yrs of age participated in this study. There were 12 nonobese able-bodied controls, 19 obese able-bodied children (obese), and 15 boys with DMD. Body composition was measured by dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DEXA). Body composition and body water compartment analysis were assessed by MFBIA. All measurements obtained using MFBIA were compared with those obtained using DEXA for validation. Results: Both MFBIA and DEXA measures were strongly correlated in control (r = 0.99), obese (r = 0.92), and DMD subjects (r = 0.95). However, lean tissue mass measured by DEXA in the DMD subjects was only slightly higher (19.2 ± 1.1 vs. 18.2 ± 1.2, P < 0.02) than as measured by MFBIA. Mean percentage of body fat measured by DEXA in the DMD subjects (30.4 ± 3.1%) was significantly lower than as measured by MFBIA (38.7 ± 2.2%). The mean percentage of body fat measured by DEXA in the control group (23.2 ± 1.8%) was significantly (P < 0.001) lower than as measured by MFBIA (28.6 ± 1.6%). The mean percentage of body fat measured by DEXA in obese able-bodied controls (40.8 ± 0.9%) was not significantly different from that measured by MFBIA (40.4 ± 1.5%). Compared with the obese and control subjects, DMD subjects showed reduced ICW and ECW, with an increased ECW/ICW ratio, as expected. However, the percentage of fat for the DMD group was not different from the obese group. Conclusions: DMD patients have elevated ECW/ICW ratios compared with obese subjects and nonobese controls. However, obese subjects and nonobese controls had similar ECW/ ICW ratios, despite the increased fat tissue mass in obese subjects. This suggests that the elevated ECW/ICW ratios in DMD subjects are not due to increased fat mass but rather some other mechanism, likely impaired cellular homeostasis due to muscle membrane instability. Although MFBIA slightly underestimates lean tissue mass in boys with DMD, it has a potential role as an inexpensive and easy to use measurement tool to measure changes in muscle mass in the clinical setting.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)483-491
Number of pages9
JournalAmerican Journal of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2005


  • Bioelectric impedance
  • Dual-Energy X-ray Absorptiometry
  • Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy
  • Extracellular Water
  • Intracellular water

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rehabilitation
  • Health Professions(all)
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation


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