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A theoretical and experimental study has been performed on a low-profile, 2.4-GHz dipole antenna that uses a frequency-selective surface (FSS) with varactor-tuned unit cells. The tunable unit cell is a square patch with a small aperture on either side to accommodate the varactor diodes. The varactors are placed only along one dimension to avoid the use of vias and simplify the dc bias network. An analytical circuit model for this type of electrically asymmetric unit cell is shown. The measured data demonstrate tunability from 2.15 to 2.63 GHz with peak gains at broadside that range from 3.7- to 5-dBi and instantaneous bandwidths of 50 to 280 MHz within the tuning range. It is shown that tuning for optimum performance in the presence of a human-core body phantom can be achieved. The total antenna thickness is approximately λ/45.