Estimated Height, Weight, and Body Mass Index: Implications for Research and Patient Safety

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Research suggests that weight influences patient care and outcomes. Health-care providers (HCPs) sometimes rely on patient self-reports or HCP estimates of height and weight. The purpose of this study was to determine the accuracy of self-reported height and weight and HCP estimations of height, weight, and body mass index (BMI) classification when compared with measured height, weight, and calculated BMI.

Study design

Attending physicians, residents, and nurses provided height and weight estimates along with BMI categorizations for 110 trauma patients at a large, teaching hospital with a Level I trauma center. Patients provided reports of their heights and weights. Measured heights and weights were obtained with appropriate calibrated devices, and BMIs were calculated. Estimates and categorizations were then compared with measured and calculated values.


HCPs were 41% and 53% accurate in estimating height and weight, respectively. Self-reports had higher accuracy (69% and 92%, respectively) but still resulted in a BMI misclassification of 32%. Twenty-two percent of patient self-reports were unobtainable. When HCPs attempted to categorize a patient into a BMI group, the accuracy was 56%. Functioning, calibrated instruments for measuring height and weight were frequently unavailable in relevant hospital locations.



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