Doctors, nurses, and parents are equally poor at estimating pediatric weights

Pediatr Emerg Care. 1999 Feb;15(1):17-8. doi: 10.1097/00006565-199902000-00005.


Objective: To evaluate the relative accuracy of physicians, nurses, and parents in estimating the weight of children presenting to the emergency department.

Methods: One hundred pediatric patients between the ages of 0 and 8 years presenting to an urban teaching emergency department (40,000 patients per year) were enrolled over a 1-month period (September 1996). The parents, triage nurse, and examining physician were asked to estimate the patient's weight, each blinded to the others' estimates and the child's actual weight.

Results: Parents, nurses, and physicians all slightly underestimated patient weights (P < 0 .05), but these groups did not differ among themselves (P > 0 .05). The total range of estimates was broad in each group (parents +292% to -41%, nurses +30% to -36%, and physicians +43% to -56%). There was no significant relationship between estimates with regard to age, weight, or sex. Twenty-nine percent of physicians' estimates, 40% of nurses' estimates, and 16% of parents' estimates differed from the actual weight by more than 15%.

Conclusion: Emergency department pediatric weight estimates by parents, nurses, and physicians are significantly and similarly unreliable.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Anthropometry / methods
  • Body Weight*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Drug Therapy
  • Emergency Service, Hospital
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Nurses / standards*
  • Parents*
  • Physicians / standards*
  • Reproducibility of Results