Original articles

An evaluation of nutritional practice in a paediatric burns unit

Sanne Vijfhuize, Manon Verburg, Luise Marino, Monique van Dijk, Heinz Rode


Introduction. Burn injuries evoke a systemic metabolic response with profound effects on organ function, susceptibility to infection, wound healing, growth and development, and mortality. Children are especially vulnerable to nutritional deficiencies owing to their limited energy reserves.
Methods. We evaluated the feeding practice in a paediatric burns unit. All children admitted to the unit were studied for a minimum of 3 consecutive days. Patients were divided into two groups: those with burns less than 20% (group 1) and burns ≥20% of total body surface area (TBSA) (group 2). Dietary prescriptions, intake, compliance with feeding practices, and the use of supplementary nutrition were assessed. Under-feeding and over-feeding were defined when there was a discrepancy between prescribed and actual food intake.
Results. Forty children (mean age 5.8 years) were studied. They sustained between 2% and 55% TBSA burns. Inadequate caloric intake was seen in 19 of 29 patients and in 9 of 11 patients in groups 1 and 2, respectively. In contrast, excess protein supplementation was seen in 24 of 29 group 1 patients and 6 of 11 group 2 patients. The dietician’s food prescription was followed for 170 of 211 days; prescription compliance was correct in only 39 of 211 days.
Conclusion. Adequate nutrition is essential for burns patients, but several factors can lead to either under- or over-feeding. A daily dietary consumption chart and evaluation of compliance are essential for each patient. There should be greater acceptability of tube enteral feeding.

Authors' affiliations

Sanne Vijfhuize,

Manon Verburg,

Luise Marino,

Monique van Dijk,

Heinz Rode,

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paediatrics; nutrition; burns

Cite this article

South African Medical Journal 2010;100(6):383-386.

Article History

Date submitted: 2009-07-03
Date published: 2010-06-01

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