1. Multi-frequency bio-impedance analysis has been used to estimate extracellular and total body water in a heterogeneous group of 43 surgical patients (23 males, 20 females).
2. Radioisotope-dilution methods were used for the measurement of extracellular and total body water.
3. Resistance and reactance were measured between wrist and ankle at frequencies from 5 kHz to 1 MHz.
4. Extracellular and total body water were estimated by multiple stepwise regression using the radioisotope values as the dependent variables. The parameters included in the regression were: resistance and reactance at each frequency, body habitus parameters, plasma albumin and plasma sodium.
5. The standard errors of the estimates between the measured and esitmated values were 1.73 litres (coefficient of variation 9.6%) and 2.17 litres (coefficient of variation 6.0%) for extracellular and total body water, respectively.
6. These errors represent a useful improvement relative to those obtained from anthropometric estimates. However, the improvements relative to the use of a single frequency (50 kHz) are not clinically significant.