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Faltering growth (failure to thrive) in children < 6 years

PAEDIATRIC

If any of the following are present or suspected, please refer the patient to the emergency department (via ambulance if necessary) or seek emergent medical advice if in a remote region.


It is proposed that the following conditions should be sent directly to emergency. This is not a list of all conditions that should be sent to the emergency department, it is intended as guidance for presentations that may otherwise have been directed to general paediatric outpatients:

Brain & Nervous System

  • Headaches
    • that wake at night or headaches immediately on wakening
    • new and severe headaches
    • associated with significant persisting change of personality or cognitive ability or deterioration in school performance
    • recent head injury or head trauma
    • any abnormalities on neurological examination, such as: focal weakness, gait disturbance, papilledema, diplopia
    • sudden onset headache reaching maximum intensity within 5 minutes  ( = explosive onset)
    • presence of an intracranial csf shunt
    • hypertension above 95th centile by age for systolic or diastolic

  • Seizures
    • all children with new onset of clinically obvious epileptic seizures should be referred to emergency for initial assessment, observation and consideration of emergency investigation or management.
    • any abnormalities on neurological examination, such as: focal weakness, gait disturbance, papilledema, diplopia
    • significant change in seizures for established epilepsy:
      • new onset of focal seizures or
      • a dramatic change in seizure frequency or duration
  • Faints syncope and funny turns
    • loss of consciousness in association with palpitations
    • sudden loss of consciousness during exercise
    • possible infantile spasms. this may be frequent brief episodes of head bobbing (with or without arm extension) in an infant less than 12 months old

 

Respiratory

  • Asthma, stridor and wheeze
    • infants who have apnoea or cyanosis during paroxysms of coughing
    • children with recurrent or persistent respiratory symptoms who have had an episode of choking suggestive of a possible inhaled foreign body
    • recent onset or escalating stridor and respiratory distress
    • acute respiratory distress not responding to home management
    • acute respiratory symptoms causing inability to feed or sleep in an infant
  • Persistent and chronic cough
    • infants who have apnoea or cyanosis during paroxysms of coughing
    • children with recurrent or persistent respiratory symptoms who have had an episode of choking suggestive of a possible inhaled foreign body
    • prominent dyspnoea, especially at rest or at night
    • cough causing inability to feed or sleep in an infant

Gastroenterology

  • Jaundice
    • Jaundice in infants with elevated liver transaminases or conjugated (direct) bilirubin > 20 microMol per litre or >15% of total bilirubin.
    • Jaundice in ≥38 week infant ≥ 330 UMol/L
    • Jaundice in 35-37 week infant ≥ 280 UMol/L
    • Jaundice in <35 week infant ≥ 230 UMol/L
  • Chronic & Recurrent Abdominal Pain
    • severe pain not able to be managed at home with simple analgesia
    • significant change in location or intensity of chronic abdominal pain suggestive of a new pathology
    • pain associated with vomiting where this has not occurred before
    • bile stained vomiting
  • Chronic Diarrhoea and/or Vomiting
    • vomiting or diarrhoea with weight loss in an infant <1 year
    • suspected pyloric stenosis
    • bile stained vomiting
    • acute onset abdominal distention
    • weight loss with cardiovascular instability, e.g. postural heart rate changes
    • new onset of blood in diarrhoea or vomitus
  • Constipation with or without soiling
    • severe abdominal pain or vomiting with pain

Urinary

  • Urinary Incontinence and enuresis.
    • recent onset of polyuria/polydipsia that might suggest diabetes (mellitus or insipidus)
  • Recurrent Urinary Tract Infections (UTI)
    • acute infant  urinary tract infection presenting septicaemia or acutely unwell

Musculoskeletal

  • Acute joint pain with fever
  • Acute joint pain unable to weight bear.   

Cardiac

  • Chest pain with haemodynamic compromise or history of cardiac disease
  • Infant <3 months with newly noted murmur and any of the following:
    • poor feeding
    • slow weight gain
    • weak or absent femoral pulses
    • post ductal (foot) oxygen saturation < 95%
    • respiratory signs (wheeze, recession or tachypnoea)

Allergies

  • Anaphylaxis
  • Allergic reaction where there are any respiratory or cardiovascular symptoms or signs
  • Reaction to peanut or other nut should be referred to Emergency as these reactions can progress rapidly and should be observed and assessed in Emergency
  • Exposure to a known allergen with a previously identified potential for anaphylaxis in this patient even if the reaction appears currently mild
  • Severe angioedema of face

Growth concerns

  • Faltering growth (failure to thrive in children < 6 years)
    • severe malnutrition
    • temperature instability
    • cardiovascular instability – postural heart rate change
  • Short stature
    • possible CNS signs (visual disturbance, morning headaches)

Developmental concerns

  • Non verbal child with acute distress and unable to examine adequately for medical conditions causing pain  eg tooth abscess, bone infections or osteopaenic fractures

 

Behavioural concerns

  • Suicidal or immediate danger of self-harm
  • Aggressive behaviour with immediate threatening risk to vulnerable family members

Irritable Infant

  • Fluctuating or altered conscious level – weak cry, not waking appropriately for feeds, lethargy, maternal concern of failure of normal interaction
  • Suspicion of harm or any unexplained bruising, especially in infant <3 months
  • Significant escalation in frequency or volume of vomiting
  • New onset of blood mixed in stool
  • Fever
  • Increased respiratory effort
  • Weak or absent femoral pulses in infant <3 months
  • Presence of newly noted heart murmur in infant <3 months

 

Physical findings of concern in an infant <1 year

  • Inguinal hernia that cannot be reduced.
  • Painless firm neck swelling that is increasing in size.
  • White pupil or white instead of red reflex on eye examination.
  • Previously unrecognised intersex genitals (ambiguous as either virilised female or incomplete formation male eg bilateral absent testes).
  • Possible Infantile Spasms. This may be frequent brief episodes of head bobbing (with or without arm extension) in an infant less than 12 months old. 
  • Absent femoral pulses.
  • Infant <3 months with newly noted murmur and any of the following:
    • poor feeding
    • slow weight gain
    • weak or absent femoral pulses
    • post ductal (foot) oxygen saturation < 95%
    • respiratory signs (wheeze, recession or tachypnoea)

Diabetes

  • New diagnosis of type 1 diabetes = polyuria and/or polydipsia and random BSL >11.0.
  • Ketoacidosis in a known diabetic with any of the following:
    • systemic symptoms (fever, lethargy)
    • vomiting
    • inability to eat (even if not vomiting)
    • abdominal pain
    • headache
  • Refer to local care pathway
  • If breast-fed baby, offer advice about technique – lactation consultant or child health nurse
  • Prematurity needs to be corrected on growth charts
  • Severe acute malnutrition is defined by more than 10% recent acute weight loss or crossing two major centiles or visible severe wasting or nutritional odema: http://www.who.int/childgrowth/standards/en/
  • Royal Children’s Melbourne Growth charts and calculators: RCH Growth Charts
  • If you have a reason to suspect a child in Queensland is experiencing harm, or is at risk of experiencing harm, you need to contact Child Safety Services: https://www.communities.qld.gov.au/

Minimum Referral Criteria

  • Category 1
    (appointment within 30 calendar days)
    • Infants < 1 year with faltering growth
    • Significant weight loss in a child up to 6 years
  • Category 2
    (appointment within 90 calendar days)
    • Most other referrals with faltering growth in children < 6 years
  • Category 3
    (appointment within 365 calendar days)
    • No category 3 criteria

1. Reason for request Indicate on the referral

  • To establish a diagnosis
  • For treatment or intervention
  • For advice and management
  • For specialist to take over management
  • Reassurance for GP/second opinion
  • For a specified test/investigation the GP can't order, or the patient can't afford or access
  • Reassurance for the patient/family
  • For other reason (e.g. rapidly accelerating disease progression)
  • Clinical judgement indicates a referral for specialist review is necessary

2. Essential referral information Referral will be returned without this

  • General referral information
  • For infants less than 12 months must provide gestational age at birth (or weeks of prematurity)
  • Details of concern about growth
    • current height and weight, and include date of measurement
    • if under 2 years include head circumference

3. Additional referral information Useful for processing the referral

Highly Desirable Information – may change triage category.

  • Height/weight/head circumference/percentile charts (measured serially and plotted to note trend, if available). It is recommended that WHO growth standards be used for children under 2 years of age and CDC growth charts for children over 2 years of age
  • Feeding history:
    • infants – breast or formula, volumes or effectiveness of feeding
    • older children – feeding refusal, restrictive food choices
  • Gestational age at birth and birth weight.
  • Bowel habit and any history of vomiting
  • GP impression of current developmental status (may be parental assessment) (= age appropriate, some delays, significant delays).
  • Family history (family history with short stature)
  • Social history
    • parental mental health problems
    • lack of financial resources for food requirement
    • lack of suitable housing
    • lack of family/community supports
    • refugee or recent immigrant background
    • failure to attend/engage hospital or community services appointments
    • previous history of child protection involvement

Desirable Information- Will assist at consultation

  • Other past medical history
  • Immunisation history
  • Medication history
  • Other physical examination findings inclusive of CNS, birth marks or dysmorphology

Investigations that may be considered with referral

  • Urinalysis
  • Stool PCR or M/C/S for infections, calprotectin, elastase
  • FBC with differential, LFTs U&Es TFT
  • If gluten in diet: coeliac serology, total IgA

4. Request

Patient's Demographic Details

  • Full name (including aliases)
  • Date of birth
  • Residential and postal address
  • Telephone contact number/s – home, mobile and alternative
  • Medicare number (where eligible)
  • Name of the parent or caregiver (if appropriate)
  • Preferred language and interpreter requirements
  • Identifies as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander

Referring Practitioner Details

  • Full name
  • Full address
  • Contact details – telephone, fax, email
  • Provider number
  • Date of referral
  • Signature

Relevant clinical information about the condition

  • Presenting symptoms (evolution and duration)
  • Physical findings
  • Details of previous treatment (including systemic and topical medications prescribed) including the course and outcome of the treatment
  • Body mass index (BMI)
  • Details of any associated medical conditions which may affect the condition or its treatment (e.g. diabetes), noting these must be stable and controlled prior to referral
  • Current medications and dosages
  • Drug allergies
  • Alcohol, tobacco and other drugs use

Reason for request

  • To establish a diagnosis
  • For treatment or intervention
  • For advice and management
  • For specialist to take over management
  • Reassurance for GP/second opinion
  • For a specified test/investigation the GP can't order, or the patient can't afford or access
  • Reassurance for the patient/family
  • For other reason (e.g. rapidly accelerating disease progression)
  • Clinical judgement indicates a referral for specialist review is necessary

Clinical modifiers

  • Impact on employment
  • Impact on education
  • Impact on home
  • Impact on activities of daily living
  • Impact on ability to care for others
  • Impact on personal frailty or safety
  • Identifies as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander

Other relevant information

  • Willingness to have surgery (where surgery is a likely intervention)
  • Choice to be treated as a public or private patient
  • Compensable status (e.g. DVA, Work Cover, Motor Vehicle Insurance, etc.)
  • Please note that where appropriate and where available, the referral may be streamed to an associated public allied health and/or nursing service.  Access to some specific services may include initial assessment and management by associated public allied health and/or nursing, which may either facilitate or negate the need to see the public medical specialist.

  • A change in patient circumstance (such as condition deteriorating, or becoming pregnant) may affect the urgency categorisation and should be communicated as soon as possible.

  • Please indicate in the referral if the patient is unable to access mandatory tests or investigations as they incur a cost or are unavailable locally.