Prevalence of undernutrition during hospitalisation in a children's hospital: what happens during admission?

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The aim of the study was to compare the prevalence of undernutrition in children on presentation to hospital and on discharge.


On a screening week, 141 children aged from birth to 17 years who were hospitalised for ≥ 72 h were reviewed on presentation and discharge or after 3 months (if still in hospital) by auditing hospital records. Weight for age standard deviation (s.d. < −2) was used to define undernutrition on admission and discharge. The number of children referred for dietetic advice was recorded.


The prevalence of undernutrition on admission was 27% (14% moderate (s.d.: −2 to −3) and 13% severe (s.d.: ≥−3)) according to weight s.d. and increased to 32% by discharge (11% moderate; 21% severe). The most nutritionally vulnerable children, with a prevalence of undernutrition from 33 to 53% on admission, were aged less than 2 years, inpatients for >1 month and those with multiple medical problems. In all, 74% (n = 104) of cases were referred to Dietetics, including 73% (n = 79) of those without evidence of undernutrition.


Undernutrition is a major problem in children during hospitalisation. The risk of nutritional depletion needs to be identified at the time of admission, especially for children under 2 years and those with multiple medical problems, in order to initiate appropriate nutritional intervention.

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