Prevalence of malnutrition in pediatric hospital patients

Curr Opin Pediatr. 2008 Oct;20(5):590-6. doi: 10.1097/MOP.0b013e32830c6ede.


Purpose of review: Hospital protein-energy malnutrition and its adverse consequences were already described back in 1980. The purpose of this review is to describe the current prevalence of malnutrition in hospitalized children and to describe current risk groups.

Recent findings: Different definitions have been used to describe malnutrition. According to WHO criteria, the SD score with a cutoff of less than -2 should be used to define malnutrition and to compare prevalence data. Using the SD score for weight for height or equivalent criteria, the prevalence of acute malnutrition over the last 10 years in hospitalized children in Germany, France, the UK and the USA varied between 6.1 and 14%, whereas in Turkey up to 32% of patients with malnutrition were reported. Acute malnutrition is still highly prevalent in children with an underlying disease; however, the prevalence rate seems lower in children with cystic fibrosis and malignancies.

Summary: The prevalence of acute malnutrition of children admitted to hospital is still considerably high, but there is a scarcity of data concerning the nutritional status during hospital admission. Screening tools to identify children at risk of developing malnutrition might be helpful.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Age Distribution
  • Anthropometry
  • Body Mass Index
  • Child
  • Child Nutrition Disorders / diagnosis
  • Child Nutrition Disorders / epidemiology
  • Child, Hospitalized / statistics & numerical data
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Hospitalization / statistics & numerical data*
  • Hospitals, Pediatric*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mass Screening / methods
  • Netherlands / epidemiology
  • Nutrition Assessment
  • Nutritional Requirements
  • Prevalence
  • Protein-Energy Malnutrition / diagnosis*
  • Protein-Energy Malnutrition / epidemiology*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Sex Distribution