Evaluation and Management of The Child with Failure to Thrive
In this review article, the definition, aetiology, evaluation, differential diagnoses, management, prevention and prognosis of failure to thrive are discussed. Failure to thrive (FTT) is a common problem in paediatric practice, affecting 5-10% of under-fives in developed countries with a higher incidence in developing countries. Majority of cases of FTT are due to a combination of nutritional and environmental deprivation secondary to parental poverty and/or ignorance. Many infants with FTT are not identified. The key to diagnosing FTT is finding the time in busy clinical practice to accurately measure and plot a child's weight, height and head circumference, and then assess the trend. In the evaluation of the child who has failed to thrive, three initial steps required to develop an economical treatment-centred approach are: (i) A thorough history including itemized psychosocial review, (ii) Careful physical examination and (iii) Direct observation of the child's behaviour and of parent-child interaction. Laboratory evaluation should be guided by history and physical examination findings only. Once FTT is identified in a particular child, the management should begin with a careful search for its aetiology. Two principles that hold true irrespective of aetiology are that all children with FTT need a high-calorie diet for catch-up growth (typically 150 percent of their caloric requirement for their expected, not actual weight) and all children with FTT need a careful follow up. Social issues of the family must also be addressed. A multidisplinary approach is recommended when FTT persists despite intervention or when it is severe. Overall, only a third of children with FTT are ultimately judged to be normal.
Key words: Failure to thrive, growth deficiency, undernutrition.