Morbidly obese paediatric patients are not adequately screened for comorbidities


Address for correspondence: Dr ML Brandt, Texas Children's Hospital, Division of Pediatric Surgery, 6701 Fannin St. CCC 12.10, Houston, TX 77030, USA. E-mail:


Although childhood obesity is common, many paediatric practitioners are not familiar with screening for its associated, serious comorbidities. We aimed to determine the adequacy of screening for nine well-recognized comorbidities in outpatients with severe morbid obesity (body mass index [BMI] ≥50 kg m−2) seen in a large tertiary paediatric hospital. Patients with a BMI of ≥50 kg m−2 seen at Texas Children's Hospital during calendar year 2009 were identified. Their medical records were reviewed for any documentation where hypertension, cardiac dysfunction, sleep apnoea, hepatosteatosis, diabetes, pseudotumour cerebri, dyslipidemia, orthopaedic issues and depression were noted and/or addressed as evidence of clinician awareness of these problems. We identified 123 patients seen at least once in 2009, with an average of 3.4 physician visits per patient and by an average of 2 different specialists. Hypertension screening was the most documented (91% of patients) and depression screening was the least documented (41%) in this patient cohort. Twelve patients (10%) had documented screening for all nine comorbidities. Overall, 55 patients (45%) had five or fewer of the nine comorbidities noted and/or addressed in the medical record. Adequate screening for comorbidities occurs in approximately half of children with severe morbid obesity, which means that many of these comorbidities are not being identified or treated. Educational programmes and new methodologies are needed to ensure comprehensive care of children with morbid obesity.