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Pediatric Failure to Thrive (FTT)

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What is failure to thrive in kids?

Failure to thrive (FTT) is a condition in which a child’s current weight or rate of weight gain is much lower than that of other children of similar age and gender. It can be the result of certain medical conditions or environmental factors.

What causes failure to thrive?

Several factors can contribute to your child's failure to thrive. At Children’s Health, we use a multidisciplinary approach to diagnose, treat and care for children who are failing to thrive. This allows us to offer our patients care by multiple specialists and experts, in a single appointment, at one location.

Medical conditions that may lead to failure to thrive include:

Environmental factors that may lead to failure to thrive include:

  • Abuse
  • Exposure to infections, parasites, or environmental toxins
  • Lack of an emotional bond between the parent and the child
  • Lack of understanding about the child’s dietary needs
  • Neglect
  • Poverty

What are the symptoms of failure to thrive?

  • Delayed mental skills
  • Delayed physical skills (such as rolling over, sitting, standing, walking)
  • Delayed secondary sexual characteristics (in adolescents)
  • Delayed social skills
  • Growth that has stopped or slowed
  • Height, weight, and head circumference that do not match standard growth charts
  • Lack of weight gain
  • Weight loss
  • Weight lower than the third percentile of standard growth charts, or 20 percent below the ideal weight for the child’s height

How is failure to thrive diagnosed?

There are several tests to diagnose failure to thrive. A doctor will go over your child's medical history and perform a physical exam. Your healthcare provider may also perform one or more of the following tests:

  • Blood tests to look for underlying medical causes
  • Denver Developmental Screening Test - a test designed to identify developmental delays in children
  • Urine tests to look for underlying medical causes
  • X-rays to determine growth issues

How is failure to thrive treated?

The reason for your child's failure to thrive will determine the treatment. Your healthcare provider may recommend one or more of the following treatments:

  • Family counseling to treat any contributing psychological or emotional issues
  • Nutritional therapy to promote weight gain and to correct any vitamin or mineral deficiencies
  • Parental education to address your child’s dietary needs
  • Treatments for any contributing medical conditions

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