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AIDS wasting syndrome results in loss of lean body mass and body cell mass. This 12-week, open-label study used bioelectrical impedance analysis to measure body composition changes in 24 patients with AIDS wasting syndrome receiving recombinant human growth hormone (r-hGH). The primary endpoint was percentage monthly change in body weight before/after r-hGH. Secondary endpoints included change from baseline in body composition (bioelectrical impedance analysis), isometric strength and CD4+ count. Twenty patients completed the study: r-hGH resulted in mean weight gains (+2.7%, P=0.146), and significant increases in mean body cell mass (+8.0%, P=0.0211), lean body mass (+4.8%, P=0.0373) and water (+5.5%, P≤0.023). Body fat decreased throughout, but not significantly. r-hGH was generally well tolerated; the most frequent adverse events were fever (7.3%) and diarrhoea (6.3%). Thus, bioelectrical impedance analysis can detect improved body cell mass independent of changes in body weight resulting from r-hGH treatment in patients with AIDS wasting syndrome.