Objective: This study aimed to examine the applicability of ultrasound muscle thickness (MT) measurements for predicting whole body fat-free mass (FFM) in elderly individuals. Design and setting: Cross-sectional study of 77 healthy elderly individuals. Methods: MTs at nine sites of the body and FFM were determined using B-mode ultrasound and dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA), respectively, in 44 women and 33 men aged 52 to 78 yrs. Stepwise multiple regression analysis produced two equations for predicting DXA-based FFM with sex (dummy: woman = 0 and man = 1) and either MTs at the anterior and posterior of thigh and lower leg (Eq1) or the product of MT and limb length (MTxLL) at thigh anterior and posterior, lower leg posterior, and upper arm anterior (Eq2) as independent variables. Results: The R2 and SEE for each of the two equations were 0.929 and 2.5 kg for Eq1 and 0.955 and 2.0 kg for Eq2. The estimated FFM from each of Eq1 (44.4 ± 8.9 kg) and Eq2 (44.4 ± 9.0 kg) did not significantly differ from that of the DXA-based FFM (44.4 ± 9.2 kg), without systematic error. However, the absolute value of the difference between the DXA-based and estimated FFM was significantly greater with Eq1 (2.0 ± 1.5 kg) than with Eq2 (1.5 ± 1.3 kg). Conclusion: The current results indicate that ultrasound MT measurement is useful to predict FFM in the elderly, and its accuracy is improved by using the product of MT and limb length as an independent variable.
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