Identification of malnutrition in children with cerebral palsy: poor performance of weight-for-height centiles


* Correspondence to second author at address above. E-mail:


This study aims to evaluate the use of the United States National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) weight-for-height centiles (WHC) in screening children with cerebral palsy (CP) for depleted body fat and to identify an alternate screening method. Growth data from 276 children aged from 3 to 12 years with CP were analyzed retrospectively. Height or a proxy for height, mid-upper arm circumference, weight, and skinfold thicknesses were recorded. Mid-upper arm fat area was calculated for each participant. The sensitivities and specificities of WHC and a number of alternative anthropometric screening methods for identifying participants with severely depleted fat stores were determined. WHC <10th centile failed to identify 45% of children with severely depleted fat stores. Triceps skinfold thickness <10th centile identified 96% of malnourished children. WHC standards lack adequate sensitivity for identification of severely depleted fat stores in children with CP. Use of triceps skinfold thickness, using cut-off value of <10th centile for age and sex, is recommended to screen for suboptimal fat stores in children with CP.