Evaluation and Management of The Child with Failure to Thrive

  • A.N Onyiriuka


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.


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eISSN: 1597-7889