Multicentre longitudinal study of the nutritional status and swallowing difficulties in children with severe neurological diseases
Introduction. Nutritional problems are common in children with neurological diseases, especially if they have significant motor impairment. Oropharyngeal dysphagia is very prevalent in these patients, and can contribute to worsening nutritional status and produce pulmonary aspirations.
Aim. Longitudinal assessment of the nutritional status of a sample of pediatric patients with moderate-severe neurological disease and establish the prevalence of oropharyngeal dysphagia in that sample.
Patients and methods. An observational multicenter prospective study was conducted. We included children under 16 years of age with moderate-to-severe neurological impairment from four hospitals, with clinical and anthropometric monitoring for one year. Questions were asked to conduct oropharyngeal dysphagia screening.
Results. Sixty-eight children were included, the main diagnosis obtained was cerebral palsy. In the anthropometric assessment, 42 patients (62%) showed weight z scores below –2, and 29 (43%) height z scores below –2, while body mass index, mid upper arm circumference and triceps and subscapular skinfolds remained less affected. We found an oropharyngeal dysphagia prevalence of 73.5% in our sample, increasing with greater motor impairment.
Conclusions. These patients showed lower weight and height than children without neurological impairment. However, with a correct follow-up they remain stable with an adequate body composition. It is important to proactively investigate the presence of oropharyngeal dysphagia, especially in those with greater motor impairment, as it occurs very frequently and an adequate diagnosis can improve clinical evolution and prevent complications.
Key words. Anthropometric assessment. Cerebral palsy. Impaired children. Neurological diseases. Nutritional monitoring. Oropharyngeal dysphagia.