Aim  The aim of this study was to investigate the effect of gastrostomy tube feeding on body protein and bone mineralization in malnourished children with cerebral palsy (CP).

Method  Children aged between 4 and 18 years with spastic quadriplegic CP (Gross Motor Function Classification System level V) were recruited from the Children’s Hospital at Westmead to participate in this prospective cohort study. The children had measurements of anthropometry (weight, height, and skinfold), bone mineral content (BMC) by dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry, and total body protein (TBP) by neutron activation analysis before and after gastrostomy tube feeding. Comparison data were collected prospectively from age-matched healthy children and extracted from databases for this study.

Results  A total of 21 children (nine females, 12 males) participated in the study (median age 8y 5mo; interquartile range [IQR] 6y 9mo–11y 10mo). The median length of time of gastrostomy feeding was 19.4 months (IQR 7.7–29.9mo). Significant (p<0.05) improvements were found in the median values for weight (15.4–23.3kg), weight standard deviation scores (SDS; −4.8 to −3.0), height (105.4–118.3cm), per cent body fat (10.7–16.3), TBP (2.4–3.4kg), TBP per cent predicted for height (83.4–99.0), and BMC (469–626g). No significant increases were found in height SDS, TBP per cent predicted for age, or BMC SDS for age or height.

Interpretation  Malnourished children with quadriplegic CP showed significant increases in body fat and protein with gastrostomy tube feeding. No significant change in bone mineralization predicted for age or height was observed.