Prevalence and severity of feeding and nutritional problems in children with neurological impairment: Oxford Feeding Study

Authors


* Correspondence to first author at University of Oxford, Department of Paediatrics, John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford, OX3 9DU, UK.

Abstract

The aim of this study was to estimate the prevalence and severity of feeding and nutritional problems in children with neurological impairment within a defined geographical area. In a cross-sectional study, a validated questionnaire was sent to 377 parents of children (aged 4 to 13 years) on the Oxford Register of Early Childhood Impairments with oromotor dysfunction. The return rate was 72%. Of these, 93% had cerebral palsy; 47% were unable to walk; 78% had speech difficulty; and 28% continuous drooling of saliva. Gastrointestinal problems were commonly encountered: 59% were constipated; 22% had significant problems with vomiting, and 31% had suffered at least one chest infection in the previous 6 months. Feeding problems were prevalent: 89% needed help with feeding and 56% choked with food; 20% of parents described feeding as stressful and unenjoyable. Prolonged feeding times (3h/day) were reported by 28%. Only 8% of participants received caloric supplements and 8% were fed via gastrostomy tube. Even though 38% of respondents considered their child to be underweight, 64% of children had never had their feeding and nutrition assessed. The results highlight that feeding problems in children with neurological impairment are common and severe, causing parental concern. Many of these children would benefit from nutritional assessment and management as part of their overall care.

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