• skin water;
  • dielectric constant;
  • tissue water;
  • age

Background: Tissue dielectric constant (TDC) measured at 300 MHz via the coaxial line reflection method is useful to evaluate local tissue water (LTW) and its change. Because excitation field penetration depth depends on size and geometry of the coaxial probe in contact with the skin, TDC values reflect skin and subcutaneous fat to varying depths depending on the probe used. Because tissue changes that occur with age or body mass index (BMI) may affect tissue water content and its depth distribution, our goal was to use TDC measurements to characterize depth patterns of LTW in normal tissue and to investigate the possible impact of age and BMI.

Methods: TDC was measured to depths of 0.5, 1.5, 2.5 and 5.0 mm on both forearms of 69 healthy women (age: 22–82 years, BMI: 18.7–46.1 kg/m2).

Results: Independent of age or BMI, TDC values decreased significantly with increasing measurement depth (33.7±5.8 at 0.5 mm to 21.8±3.7 at 5.0 mm) but at all depths dominant and non-dominant TDC values were similar to each other with ratios ranging from 1.025±0.081 at 0.5 mm to 1.017±0.097 at 5.0 mm. TDC values only at 2.5 and 5.0 mm decreased significantly with increasing BMI whereas TDC values only at 0.5 and 1.5 mm increased significantly with age.

Conclusion: The findings indicate that normal TDC values are affected differentially by BMI and age in a depth-dependent manner. Possible explanations are discussed.