Background: Total body water (TBW) is one component of fat-free mass and changes in TBW are influenced by fluid shifts (especially during transition to postnatal life), electrolyte balance and nutritional status. Normal values for term-born neonates and preterm infants at birth have not been defined in large cohorts, limiting investigation into its monitoring and use in clinical practice.
Objective: To systematically review the evidence base for percentage of TBW in term-born infants, quantify the effect of prematurity on TBW at birth, and describe normal progression of TBW over time in preterm infants.
Methods: Systematic review of Medline, Web of Science Core Collection and EBSCO-CINAHL (January 1946 to January 2020). Included articles used dilutional methods to assess TBW.
Results: Searches identified 2349 articles of which 22 included data suitable for analysis. Mean TBW in term-born newborns was 73.8% (95% CI 72.47% to 75.06%, 15 studies, 433 infants). Meta-regression showed that TBW was higher in preterm infants (up to 90% at 26 weeks gestation, dropping to 75% at 36 weeks corrected gestation) and was negatively correlated with gestation at birth, falling 1.44% per week (95% CI 0.63% to 2.24%, 9 studies, 179 infants). Analysis of TBW over time during the ex utero growth of preterm infants was not possible due to paucity of data.
Conclusion: This review defines the normal TBW percentage in term-born infants and confirms and quantifies previous findings that preterm infants have a higher TBW percentage.