Letters

Failure to thrive: Define it carefully

BMJ 1994; 308 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.308.6928.596b (Published 26 February 1994) Cite this as: BMJ 1994;308:596
  1. M Donaldson
  1. Department of Child Health, Royal Hospital for Sick Children, Glasgow G3 8SJ
  2. Midwifery Education Department, Princess Anne Hospital, Southampton SO9 4HJ
  3. Breastfeeding Clinic, Women's Centre, Churchill John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford.

    EDITOR, - Harvey Marcovitch's review of failure to thrive was flawed in its failure to define the term satisfactorily.1 In the wider sense failure to thrive can be defined as the failure of a child to fulfil his or her potential in terms of physical, social, and emotional growth and development. In the somatic sense, the term failure to thrive is usually applied to infants and preschool children to denote a failure to gain weight at an appropriate rate. In other words, the child is thin; typically, head growth is preserved relative to linear growth, and linear growth is preserved relative to body weight.

    By contrast, short stature simply means height below the third centile and makes no assumption about the normality or otherwise of the child. …

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