Hospital-acquired malnutrition in paediatric patients: a multicentre trial focusing on prevalence, risk factors, and impact on clinical outcomes

Eur J Pediatr. 2021 Jun;180(6):1761-1767. doi: 10.1007/s00431-021-03957-9. Epub 2021 Jan 25.


Alteration of nutrient metabolism during hospital stay may cause a deterioration in patients' nutritional status. The aim of this study was to determine the prevalence and possible risk factors for nutritional deterioration in hospitalized children. A multicentre prospective study was conducted among the patients aged 1 month to 18 years in tertiary-care hospitals, between December 2018 and May 2019. Demographic data, illness, and nutritional assessment on the first and the last day of admission were collected. There were 623 patients enrolled in this study with the median age of 4.3 years. Two thirds of the patients had at least one underlying disease. Eighty-eight percent of the patients were admitted with mild medical conditions including a scheduled cycle of chemotherapy or immunosuppressive drugs, minor infection, and non-invasive procedures. The prevalence of nutritional deterioration (reduction in body mass index ≥ 0.25 Z-score) was 24% and was associated with a significantly higher rate of nosocomial infection (24% vs. 11%, p < 0.001) compared to patients without hospital-acquired malnutrition. Risk factors included moderate to severe medical conditions (AOR 1.90, 95% CI 1.09-3.31, p = 0.024), pneumonia (AOR 1.85, 95% CI 1.05-3.28, p = 0.034), seizure (AOR 2.82, 95% CI 1.28-6.19, p = 0.01), and surgery (AOR 2.98, 95% CI 1.60-5.56, p = 0.001). Nutritional management showed a significant reduction in the incidence of hospital-acquired malnutrition and a trend towards a 60% decrease in infectious complications in patients with moderate to severe medical conditions.Conclusions: Approximately one fourth of paediatric patients developed malnutrition during hospitalization. Nutritional screening, assessment, and treatment should be implemented to improve the outcomes of hospitalized paediatric patients. What is Known: • Malnutrition at admission has a negative impact on outcomes of patients, including prolonged hospitalization, increased costs of care, and a higher rate of nosocomial infection. What is New: • Hospital-acquired malnutrition can occur regardless of prior nutritional status and is predominantly related to illness severity. • Malnourished patients with nutritional intervention experience an improvement in their nutritional status as well as a lower risk of developing hospital morbidity during hospitalization.

Keywords: Hospital-acquired malnutrition; Inpatient mortality; Nutrition risk factor; Nutritional deterioration; Nutritional intervention; Paediatrics.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Hospitalization
  • Hospitals
  • Humans
  • Length of Stay
  • Malnutrition* / epidemiology
  • Malnutrition* / etiology
  • Nutrition Assessment*
  • Nutritional Status
  • Prevalence
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors