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Screening tools for paediatric malnutrition: are we there yet?

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Purpose of review

The development of nutritional screening tools has done much to raise the profile of nutrition and encourage healthcare practitioners to consider how to identify children at nutritional risk. However, the next challenge is to ensure nutritional screening accurately identifies those who have immediate and ongoing risk and therefore the potential to impact on it.

Recent findings

In this article, we review recent evidence which suggests that the large-scale use of these tools outside of a research setting is not always helpful. Most are highly sensitive but not particularly specific and therefore cases may be ‘overdiagnosed’ but also missed. It may therefore be time for nutritional screening to evolve into a process which is able to better consider the cause of risk and requirements for nutrition support with referral criteria, defined goals and outcome measures and exit criteria using a ‘measure, plot, think, act’ approach embedded into physician rounds. Key challenges relate to improving compliance around nutritional screening within the hospital setting and comparison of nutrition risk between centres, as well as an understanding of the barriers which prevent nutritional screening and assessment from occurring.Summary

It remains to be elucidated as to whether returning to a process which embeds nutritional assessment within the medical review rather than relying on a ‘nutrition score’ from a screening tool is a more effective way in which to identifying those patients that are malnourished or at risk of malnutrition during their hospital stay.
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Keywords: child; malnutrition; nutritional assessment; nutritional screening; undernutrition

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Dietetics and Speech & Language Therapy, University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, Southampton, UK 2: Department of Paediatric Gastroenterology, Southampton Children's Hospital, University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, Southampton, UK

Publication date: May 1, 2018

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