Medical Definition of Body cell mass

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Body cell mass: The total mass of all the cellular elements in the body which constitute all the metabolically active tissue of the body. There is depletion of the body cell mass (BCM) that is characteristic of wasting of the body common with chronic diseases such as AIDS and terminal cancer.

The BCM includes muscle tissue, organ tissue, intracellular and extracellular water, and bone tissue. In the normally nourished individual, muscle tissue accounts for approximately 60% of the BCM, organ tissue accounts for 20% of BCM, with the remaining 20% made up of red cells and tissue cells. The BCM also contains the large majority (98-99%) of the body's potassium.

The preferred method for assessing BCM depletion is bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA) which can be performed with portable equipment in the office setting. It involves no radiation, is inexpensive, painless, and has a high degree of accuracy. The results of BIA are combined with other statistics (height, weight, sex, and age) to calculate the BCM, the fat-free mass, and other body composition measurements.

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Reviewed on 12/21/2018

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