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Failure to Thrive in Infants and Children


Failure to thrive is a medical term used to describe unusual lack of growth in a newborn.  In some cases, this failure to thrive can be used to help doctors and lawyers identify the timing of a birth injury.  It can be a warning sign that the child may have cerebral palsy or other type of birth injuries.  To diagnose this problem, doctors often rely on growth charts.  One factor often used is a child’s weight which falls below the 5th percentile.

Causes of Failure to Thrive

  • Cerebral palsy
  • Low birth weight
  • Chromosomal problems, including Down Syndrome
  • Heart or lung problems
  • Metabolic disorders
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Serious infections

How Cerebral Palsy Causes Failure to Thrive

Children with cerebral palsy have a host of medical problems which can cause slower growth.  Cerebral palsy can make it difficult for children to take in proper amounts of nutrition.  They sometimes have trouble swallowing food (dysphagia) or feeding themselves.  Children with cerebral possibility often suffer from GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) and constipation.

Additionally, they often lose muscle mass because of an inability to exercise.


Treating children who have failed to thrive depends largely on the cause.  Some treatment options include:

  • Gastric feeding tube to ensure that the child gets enough nutrition
  • Special diets:  nutrition shakes and foods that maximize nutrition and are easy to swallow
  • Positioning:  sitting up while eating or drinking can prevent choking and make eating easier
  • Surgery:  can help correct problems that lead to swallowing difficulties
  • Physical therapy and occupational therapy can help to correct feeding patterns

If failure to thrive is the first indication of a problem, doctors may perform other screening tests to determine if the child has developmental disabilities.  One such test is the Denver Developmental Screening Test.

Contact Us

Proper nutrition is critical in ensuring that a child with cerebral palsy lives and thrives.  Children who do not grow at a typical rate may need assistance from doctors and other health care professionals to guarantee proper feeding.  If your child has significant feeding difficulties after birth, contact our medical malpractice lawyers at (440) 252-4399, or send us a message through our website to determine if a medical mistake caused your child’s injury.

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