Malnutrition is often underdiagnosed in hospitalised children, although it is associated with postoperative complications, longer hospital lengths of stay and increased healthcare-related costs.OBJECTIVE
We aimed to estimate the frequency of, and identify factors associated with, malnutrition in children undergoing anaesthesia.DESIGN
Cross-sectional observational study.SETTING
Paediatric anaesthesia department at the University Children's Hospital, Bordeaux, France.PARTICIPANTS
A total of 985 patients aged less than 18 years.MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES
Anthropometric measurements, American Society of Anesthesiologists physical status classification score and the Pediatric Nutritional Risk Score (PNRS) recorded at the pre-anaesthesia evaluation.RESULTS
When assessed as a Waterlow index less than 80%, malnutrition was present in 7.6% children. This increased to 8.1% of children assessed by clinical signs and to 11% of children when defined by a BMI less than the third percentile. In a univariate analysis, children with a BMI less than the third percentile were more often born prematurely (22.4 vs 10.4%; P = 0.0008), were small for gestational age at birth (18.4 vs 4.5%; P < 0.0001), were admitted from the emergency department (12.0 vs 5.6%; P = 0.02), had a high American Society of Anesthesiologists score (P < 0.0001), or had a high Pediatric Nutritional Risk Score (P < 0.0001). Presence (P = 0.01) and type (P = 0.002) of chronic disease were also associated with malnutrition. In the multivariate analysis, a premature birth, a lower birth weight and a higher Pediatric Nutritional Risk Score were significantly associated with a higher odds of malnutrition when defined by BMI.CONCLUSION
All children should be screened routinely for malnutrition or the risk of malnutrition at the pre-anaesthesia visit, allowing a programme of preoperative and/or postoperative nutritional support to be initiated. We suggest that as well as weight and height, BMI and a pediatric nutritional risk score such as PNRS should be recorded routinely at the pre-anaesthesia visit.