Technical Papers

Famine Edema and the Mechanism of Its Formation

Science  31 May 1946:
Vol. 103, Issue 2683, pp. 669-670
DOI: 10.1126/science.103.2683.669


Famine edema was produced experimentally in 34 normal men who lost a quarter of their body weight while subsisting for 6 months on a European type of semi-starvation diet. The ratio of extracellular water to cellular tissue was roughly doubled. Their clinical state closely resembled that seen in Europe in 1945. There were no signs of renal or cardiac failure. The plasma protein concentration fell only slightly and the A/G ratio remained within normal limits. The venous pressure was roughly 50 per cent below normal. Data from the field lend support to these indications that famine edema is not simply a result of hypoproteinemia or of renal or cardiac failure. It is concluded that there is a dynamic nonequilibrium state of the capillary wall and, accordingly, calculations from equilibrium equations are inadmissible.