Refeeding syndrome with enteral nutrition in children: a case report, literature review and clinical guidelines

Clin Nutr. 2002 Dec;21(6):515-20. doi: 10.1054/clnu.2002.0586.


Refeeding syndrome is a potentially fatal complication of the nutritional management of severely malnourished patients. The syndrome almost always develops during the early stages of refeeding. It can be associated with a severe derangement in electrolyte and fluid balance, and result in significant morbidity and mortality. It is most often reported in adults receiving total parenteral nutrition (TPN), although refeeding with enteral feeds can also precipitate this syndrome. We report what we believe to be the first case of refeeding syndrome in an adolescent with newly diagnosed Crohn's disease. This developed within a few days of starting exclusive polymeric enteral nutrition. A systematic literature review revealed 27 children who developed refeeding syndrome after oral/enteral feeding. Of these, nine died as a direct result of complications of this syndrome. We discuss the implications of this syndrome on clinical practice and propose evidence-based guidelines for its management.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Crohn Disease / therapy
  • Enteral Nutrition / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Homeostasis
  • Humans
  • Hypophosphatemia / etiology*
  • Hypophosphatemia / physiopathology
  • Hypophosphatemia / therapy
  • Nutrition Disorders / therapy*
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Syndrome
  • Water-Electrolyte Imbalance / etiology*
  • Water-Electrolyte Imbalance / physiopathology
  • Water-Electrolyte Imbalance / therapy