Background & aims: Childhood malnutrition has severe adverse effects on growth and development, but only limited information is available on the prevalence of malnutrition in paediatric hospital patients. We determined the prevalence of malnutrition in a series of unselected patients consecutively admitted as inpatients to a large tertiary care children's hospital in Germany.
Patients and methods: Data for weight and height upon admission were recorded in 475 unselected children aged 7.9+/-5 years (mean+/-SD). Weight for height 81-90 of median values were considered to indicate mild malnutrition, 70-80% moderate malnutrition and <70% severe malnutrition according to cut-off points defined by Waterlow.
Results: Some 24.1% of the patients were malnourished, with 17.7% of all patients who were mildly, 4.4% who were moderately and 1.7% who were severely malnourished. The largest proportion of malnourished patients was found among patients with multiple diagnoses (42.8% malnourished), mental retardation (40.0%), infectious diseases (34.5%) and cystic fibrosis (33.3%).
Conclusions: The very high prevalence of malnutrition among children admitted to a children's hospital is considered intolerable, given the adverse consequences for short- and long-term health and well-being. Strategies for systematic screening and treatment of malnutrition in paediatric patients need to be refined and implemented.