Reproducibility of ultrasonography for assessing abdominal fat distribution in a population at high risk of diabetes.
- Public Health Research
BACKGROUND: Visceral fat plays an important role in the development of metabolic disease independently of the effect of overall abdominal fat. Ultrasonography is an accessible method of accurately assessing abdominal fat distribution in epidemiological studies, but few details about the reproducibility of this method have been published. OBJECTIVE: The aim of this study was to investigate the reproducibility of ultrasonography in the assessment of abdominal fat distribution in a population at high risk of type 2 diabetes. DESIGN AND METHODS: Ultrasonography was used to estimate visceral and subcutaneous abdominal fat. Intra- and interobserver variation, short-term variation and variation between estimates in the fasting and non-fasting state were examined in three samples of 30, 33 and 23 participants from the ADDITION-PRO study. A variance components model was used to calculate intra- and interobserver variation, and Bland-Altman plots were drawn for all three substudies. RESULTS: Coefficients of variation for intra- and interobserver variation were in the range 3.4-6.1%, except for interobserver variation for subcutaneous fat (9.5%). Short-term variation over a median of 35 days had a coefficient of variation of 15%. The effect of a meal was primarily on the visceral estimates and did not extend beyond the first postprandial hour. Non-fasting visceral estimates were larger than fasting estimates. CONCLUSION: Both visceral and subcutaneous fat can be estimated with ultrasonography with adequate intra- and interobserver reproducibility by clinical researchers with limited training, making it a feasible method of assessing abdominal fat distribution in epidemiological studies.