Nutrition support in critically ill children: underdelivery of energy and protein compared with current recommendations

J Acad Nutr Diet. 2012 Dec;112(12):1987-92. doi: 10.1016/j.jand.2012.07.038. Epub 2012 Oct 12.


Critically ill children are at high risk for developing nutritional deficiencies, and hospital undernutrition is known to be a risk factor for morbidity and mortality in children. This study's aims were to examine current nutrition practices and the adequacy of nutrition support in the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU). This retrospective chart review included 240 PICU patients admitted to PICU for longer than 48 hours and documented all intravenous (IV), parenteral, and enteral energy and protein for the first 8 days. Basal metabolic rate and protein requirements were estimated by Schofield equation and the American Society for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition Clinical Guidelines, respectively. Moderate/severe acute malnutrition was defined as weight for age greater than -2 z scores, and moderate/severe chronic malnutrition (growth stunting) was defined as height for age greater than -2 z scores, using 2000 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention growth charts. During the first 8 days of PICU stay, the actual energy intake for all patient-days was an average of 75.7% ± 56.7% of basal metabolic rate and was significantly lower than basal metabolic rate (P<0.001); the actual protein intake for all patient-days met an average of 40.4% ± 44.2% of protein requirements and was significantly lower than the American Society for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition guidelines (P<0.001). Delivery of energy and protein were inadequate on 60% and 85% of patient-days, respectively. Only 75% of estimated energy and 40% of protein requirements were met in the first 8 days of PICU stay. These data demonstrate a high prevalence of critically ill children who are not meeting their recommended levels of protein and energy. In order to avoid undernutrition of these children, providers must conduct ongoing assessment of protein and energy intake compared with protein and energy requirements.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Basal Metabolism / physiology
  • Child
  • Child Nutrition Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Child Nutrition Disorders / therapy
  • Child Nutritional Physiological Phenomena
  • Child, Preschool
  • Critical Illness / therapy*
  • Dietary Proteins / administration & dosage
  • Energy Intake
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Intensive Care Units, Pediatric / standards
  • Intensive Care Units, Pediatric / statistics & numerical data*
  • Length of Stay
  • Male
  • Nutrition Policy*
  • Nutritional Requirements*
  • Nutritional Support*
  • Retrospective Studies


  • Dietary Proteins