Fifteen-minute consultation: ABCDE approach to nutritional assessment in preterm infants

Arch Dis Child Educ Pract Ed. 2022 Oct;107(5):314-319. doi: 10.1136/archdischild-2020-320928. Epub 2021 May 21.


The last 20 years has seen dramatic improvements in the survival of preterm infants due to improved antenatal and neonatal care. Closer attention to nutrition means early parenteral nutrition and mother's own milk are considered as standard of care. Many uncertainties remain however, such as optimal macronutrient intakes for longer term cognitive and metabolic outcomes, and the optimal probiotic regime to reduce the risk of necrotising enterocolitis. Nutrition involves macronutrients and micronutrients, immunonutrients, microbiomic aspects and nutrient delivery. It is also clear that there are behavioural and psychological aspects, and strongly held beliefs for parents and professionals that affect practice. While many healthcare professionals (HCPs) are aware of several key nutritional concepts on the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), many HCPs lack a concise, systematic approach. This article provides a brief approach to nutritional assessment for use on the NICU summarised as ABCDE: A-anthropometry, B-biochemistry, C-clinical, D-dietary intakes, E-environment and evaluation.

Keywords: biochemistry; gastroenterology; growth; neonatology.

MeSH terms

  • Delivery of Health Care
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant Nutritional Physiological Phenomena
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature*
  • Micronutrients
  • Nutrition Assessment*
  • Pregnancy
  • Referral and Consultation


  • Micronutrients