Calorimetry Testing

What is a calorimetry test?

A calorimetry test measures your child�s resting metabolic rate. A resting metabolic rate shows how much energy (calories) the body burns when at rest. The body must burn energy at rest to keep up normal functions such as breathing and heart rate. This metabolic rate can be measured by looking at your child's breathing. With this information, health care professionals can plan what your child can eat and drink.

Before a calorimetry test

Tell your child not to worry about the test. It will not hurt and there are no needles. Your child will have to have a clear plastic hood put over her head. The hood is open to room air. It may be a good idea to let your child know about the hood before the test. Parents often encourage their children to imagine themselves as an astronaut while they are under the hood. This may help your child relax and stay calm for the test.

Your child needs to have an empty stomach.

  • If your child is less than 2 years old, she cannot have anything to eat or drink 2 hours before the test.
  • If your child is more than 2 years old, she cannot eat or drink for at least 4 hours before the test. It is best if your child does not eat anything the day of the test.
  • Your child can still drink plain water.

During a calorimetry test

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During the test, your child will spend about 12 to 30 minutes lying quietly on a bed or sitting in a large chair.

Your child will need to lie quietly under the plastic hood. The hood is open to room air.

A machine called a calorimeter will take a sample of air from the hood and analyze it. If your child is calm and comfortable, the test will take less time. Your child needs to lie still for at least 12 minutes under the hood to be able to get a sample of the air. If your child is moving around or upset, the test will take longer.

Your child can watch TV or a video to help her lie quietly. She should not read, sleep, talk, laugh, or move around during the test.

If your child has a favourite video or DVD, you can bring it along to help her relax and be more comfortable.

If your child is calm and comfortable, the test will take less time than if your child is moving around.

Key points

  • A calorimetry test measures how much energy the body burns while at rest.
  • Your child must be able to lie still for about 12 to 30 minutes to have the test.
  • Results of the test can be used to find the right diet for your child.

Karen Chapman, RN, PhD (c)


At SickKids:

The Calorimetry Unit is on the fifth floor Atrium in Room 5D12. On the fifth floor, follow the signs to 5D. When you reach the round reception desk, please turn down the hall to your right for room 5D12. If you are not sure, ask at 5D reception.

If you have questions or need to cancel or reschedule your child�s test, please call 416-813-6151.