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What is a Metabolic Cart?

By A. Leverkuhn
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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A metabolic cart is an electronic medical tool to measure the body’s metabolism through the amount of heat produced when the body is at rest. The metabolic cart uses a process called calorimetry to get this measurement. The result can help tell medical workers more about a person’s overall health condition.

The various components of the device, which include a computer system, monitor, and breathing tubes, are typically mounted together on mobile push cart, hence the name, so that it can easily be moved from one examining room to another. It uses two factors to calculate the final heat production. One is the intake of oxygen for the body. The other is the output of carbon dioxide. These two figures will provide the result for the metabolic cart, which is generally measured as REE, or Resting Energy Expenditure.

The REE for a patient can vary quite a bit. Different instances of measuring it may vary over the same day or over different days. The results can also change according to a range of conditions.

Between individuals, the REE changes with regard to the person’s overall weight or height/weight ratio. Age and gender can also influence the result of this test. In addition, the chemistry of the body in response to various drugs will change the outcome.

The metabolic cart has many different uses within the medical community. This tool may be used in an Intensive care unit or emergency room in order to deduce more about the immediate condition of a patient who may not be able to respond to simple questions. The metabolic cart is also frequently used in sports medicine.

Sometimes, doctors using the metabolic cart will check for conditions like metabolic acidosis where the results of extreme energy expenditure can threaten the overall health of the body. Doctors might also check glucose levels in a greater examination of the blood. Exercise related conditions also affect the REE and the RQ, or Respiratory Quotient, that medical workers use as a common indicator.

The medical community also looks at the overall success of the test in maintaining accuracy. Reports show that the results of this tool can be more effective for people in certain conditions. For example, obesity or dire health conditions may affect the accuracy rate for finding out the actual REE.

Using a metabolic cart and looking at the body’s metabolism helps medical staff understand an immediate medical condition better. Lots of vitamin deficiencies and other illnesses will have a dramatic effect on the metabolism. In addition to metabolic blood testing, this kind of tool is a useful part of what the modern medical community offers to patients.

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Discussion Comments
By anon994563 — On Feb 18, 2016

Breezing makes a portable metabolic tool -- not the same duration of a metabolic cart test, so you have to make sure you're fully relaxed. Instead of computer/PC based, it connects to an Apple App (iPhone 4s or newer).

By BronzeEagle — On Dec 11, 2014

@ Water Serpent

I was curious if you have difficulty gaining weight. Has anyone talked to you about visiting a metabolic weight loss center? They aren't just for people with intestinal issues, but can help anyone understand their metabolic issues better. It could really change your life.

By WaterSerpent — On Dec 10, 2014

I think I had this test done because I can't absorb potassium like other people can. I'm missing that part of my intestine. I was having abnormal heart palpitations, because your heart is a muscle and potassium controls muscle function. It was really scary. I wish they had portable metabolic carts. Then I could test myself LOL.

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