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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Chicago, IL & Lake Michigan

Provocative Study: Pyloric Botox for Feeding Difficulties

S Hirsch, S Nurko, P Mitchell, R Rosen. J Pediatr 2020; 226: 228-235. Botulinum Toxin as a Treatment for Feeding Difficulties in Young Children

This retrospective study of children, n=85, 2 months to 5 years (2007-2019) examined the effectiveness of intrapyloric botulinum toxin injection (IPBI) in children with feeding difficulties; many had vomiting (n=66) or retching (n=25). Dosing per report: 6 units/kg to a maximum of 100 units, divided in 4 injections around the pylorus. 100 units were diluted in 1 mL of normal saline to create a 10 unit/0.1 mL solution. The study excluded 27 patients who had IPBI but had insufficient data/follow-up or other disease processes.

Key findings:

  • 57 patients (67%) had partial or complete improvement in symptoms after IPBI. 10 (18%) patients were reported to have a complete response.
  • Twenty-six patients (31%) received repeat IPBI within 1 year, with only 6 patients receiving IPBI more than twice
  • “Baseline gastric emptying results did not predict IPBI response”


  • Retrospective study from a tertiary referral center
  • Lack of control group
  • Relatively small numbers –about 7 children per year. Given the large number of children with feeding problems followed by the Boston group, this is a highly-selected group
  • Lack of standardized evaluation to determine improvement
  • The authors state that time alone is not likely the reason for observed improvements because “our general practice at our institution is to pursue IPBI when other medical interventions have failed, and indeed these patients had been followed by our group for an average of slightly more than 1 year before receiving IPBI”

My take: Overall, I am impressed with the innovative ideas from Boston Children’s for pediatric patients with feeding problems. Yet, I am skeptical with regard to the use of IPBI for feeding difficulties; though, there may be a subset of children who benefit. Many children with complex feeding problems improve without the use of IPBI. Clearly, a randomized trial would be helpful.

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Nutrition Week (Day 3) Multidisciplinary Feeding Disorders

A recent systematic review/meta-analysis (WG Sharp, VM Volkert, L Scahill, CE McCracken, B McElhanon. J Pediatr 2017; 181: 116-24) by my colleagues at the Marcus Center and Emory indicate that intensive, multidisciplinary treatment for pediatric feeding disorders is a game-changer.

The authors identified 11 studies with 593 patients.

Key finding: After intensive intervention, 71% were successfully weaned off tube feedings at the completion of the intervention and this improved to 80% at last followup. Treatment was also associated with increased oral intake, improved mealtime behaviors, and reduced parenting stress.

Based on the results of their review/meta-analysis, the authors provide a summary of recommendations for “standard of care at intensive day and inpatient programs.”  This lists the professional team which should involve at a minimum: psychology, medicine, nutrition, and speech language/occupational therapy.  Treatment needs active participation of caregivers so that gains will not be lost when intensive treatment is completed. Behavioral intervention is central to success.

In an associated editorial (pg 7-8), the authors (RJ Noel, AH Silverman) explain that the one of the biggest hurdles for intensive treatment is gaining approval from insurance companies. One key point they make: “Their work provides data that will be very useful towards advocacy and improving patient access to such treatment.”

My take: This study provides justification of intensive feeding programs.  That being said, the individuals/programs with the appropriate expertise to achieve these results remain quite limited.

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A few more slides from my recent PNALD/IFLAD lecture:


The other subjects discussed for PNALD treatment included management of bacterial overgrowth, possible role of STEP surgery, and lipid management strategies.



Pediatric Nutritionist/Scott Pentiuk: Update on two topics: Blenderized diets and Eosinophilic Esophagitis

From the Pediatric Nutritionist blog –two lectures from Dr. Scott Pentiuk:

Two Lectures: Blenderized diets and Eosinophilic esophagitis

These lectures feature a lot of useful references and practical advice.

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Shem Creek, SC

Shem Creek, SC