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Protein-energy malnutrition during hospital stay: physiopathology and treatment

OBJECTIVE: To identify the main physiopathological aspects of severe protein-energy malnutrition and its treatment. DATA SOURCE: Based on the World Health Organization guidelines (WHO, 1999), an electronic search for papers on hospital treatment of children with severe malnutrition was performed on Lilacs, Medline and SciELO databases. Studies in English, Spanish and Portuguese published in the last ten years were searched by the following key-words: malnutrition, child, hospitalization, nutrition therapy, practice guidelines, WHO. DATA SYNTHESIS: The main pathological aspects of severe malnutrition and its specific treatment were reviewed. The main clinical and metabolic complications of severe malnutrition were identified such as hypothermia, hypoglycemia, dehydration, usual infections, intestinal malabsorption, as well as stabilization and recovery phases, were defined. Understanding the main concepts of the physiopathology of this condition, associated with appropriate nutrition support planning, can decrease morbidity and mortality risks of children younger than five years old. CONCLUSIONS: The implementation of the 1999 WHO guidelines should take into consideration local economic and cultural aspects, as well as the professional health care training. Due to the complexity of severe malnutrition, adequate knowledge about basic aspects of this condition helps providing adequate diagnosis and treatment.

malnutrition; child; hospitalization; nutrition therapy; World Health Organization


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