Highly Prevalent Pediatric Feeding Disorders

A recent retrospective study (K Kovacic et al. J Pediatr 2021; 228: 126-131. Pediatric Feeding Disorder: A Nationwide Prevalence Study) provides epidemiologic data for pediatric feeding disorders.

The authors utilized three databases for children aged 2 months to 18 years: Medicaid Databases from Arizona (2009-2017) and Wisconsin (2005-2014) (public insurance databases) and The Truven Health Analytics MarketScan Commercial Claims and Encounters Database (2009-2015) (a nationwide private insurance database).

Key findings:

  • There were 126 002 and 367 256 children 5 years of age or younger with pediatric feeding disorders (PFD) with public and private insurance, respectively
  • In 2014, the annual prevalence of PFD was 1 in 23, 1 in 24, and 1 in 37 in children under 5 years in the publicly insured cohorts in Wisconsin, Arizona, and the privately insured cohort, respectively.
  • The prevalence of PFD in children <5 years (range: 27-44 per 1000 children) exceeds the prevalence of U.S. children with autism spectrum disorder (~17 per 1000 children at age 8 year) and eating disorders like anorexia nervosa and bulimia (8 and 13 per 100,000 persons per year).
  • In an associated editorial (pg 13-14), Rachel Rosen notes that “despite their high prevalence, the lack of studies funded by the National Institutes of Health…is striking.”

My take: This study provides useful data on PFD prevalence. PFD have a wide range of associated diseases, including prematurity, neurologic disorders/developmental delay, congenital heart disease, chronic lung disease, autism, and congenital bowel disorders. In some, PFD are related to poorly-understood feeding aversions.

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