Skinfold Thickness

Definition Thickness of the skinfold.

Landmarks Triceps and subscapular skinfold thickness are used. The left side of the body is usually chosen for these measurements. Triceps skinfold thickness is measured halfway down the left upper arm, while the arm is hanging relaxed at the patient's side (Fig. 5.17a).

The subscapular skinfold is measured laterally just below the angle of the left scapula (Fig. 5.17b).

Position A skinfold is held between the investigator's thumb and index finger (subcutaneous fold without muscle). The caliper is placed about 1 mm below the left hand, perpendicular to the skinfold. The right hand holds the caliper and the measurement is read within 3 seconds (so that pressure does not compress the subcutaneous tissue).

Instruments Special calipers are used for precise measurements. These are constructed to exert a constant pressure of 10 g/mm2 at the opening and allow an accuracy up to 0.1 mm. Skinfold thickness is measured in millimeters (Figs. 5.18 and 5.19).

Remarks The suprailiac skinfold can also be measured (just above the iliac crest in the mid-axillary line) and the sum of the three skinfold measurements (triceps skinfold + suprailiac skinfold + subscapular skinfold) is calculated to give an overall assessment (see Schlueter et al. (1976)).

Pitfalls Too lengthy or too frequently repeated measurements at the same spot will result in compression of the tissue, leading to falsely low measurement.

Figure 5.17 Measuring triceps (a) and subscapular skinfolds (b).
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