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Pediatric Nutritional and Feeding Disorders

Nutrition is important for growth but also plays a key role in cognitive and physical development of the infant and young child, maintaining a healthy immune system, and for maintaining a good quality of life. Disruption of nutrition in a child can come from a variety of reasons and pathways. Often this disruption is from feeding difficulties whether it is behavioral, neurodevelopmental delay, complex medical disease like congenital heart disease or cystic fibrosis, and sometimes it is from social impairment.

Descriptive terms for nutritional impairment include failure to thrive, poor weight gain, slow weight gain, malnutrition. It is the job of the Pediatric Gastroenterologist to determine causes for nutritional and feeding disorders while still treating the malnutrition.

What are symptoms of nutritional and feeding disorders?

  • Slow weight gain
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Refusal to eat
  • Swallowing problems
  • Diarrhea

How are nutritional and feeding disorders evaluated?

  • Evaluation by a Pediatric Gastroenterologist
  • Laboratory tests: blood and stool tests
  • Radiology tests: Upper GI, Esophagram, Aspiration study
  • Endoscopy
  • Evaluation by a Feeding/Speech therapist
  • Evaluation with a dietician.

How are nutritional and feeding disorders treated?

The focus of treatment is first identifying an underlying cause and treating that condition. Otherwise, increasing calories by oral route is the best treatment. At times, whether it’s the underlying disease or a child is orally unable to eat/drink calorie needs, then a supplemental feeding tube can be used. These are tubes placed either through the nose into the stomach (NG tube), or directly into the stomach (Gtube) to provide needed calories and fluids.

Often times a referral to a dietician is utilized to help guide the patient and family in more detail for the nutrition treatment. Our Pediatric Gastroenterologists are able to work with families to find causes for nutritional disorders and guide families to the right treatment.

Our specialists also work collaboratively with our colleagues at Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida including nutrition specialists, feeding therapists, radiologists, and surgeons in the diagnosis and treatment process.