Adolescent Malnutrition Service

Medically vulnerable adolescents and teens with severe malnutrition may be referred to CHOP’s Adolescent Malnutrition Service for inpatient medical stabilization and treatment at either of CHOP’s two hospitals. At both locations, patients are cared for by a collaborative, multidisciplinary team that includes physicians from the Division of Adolescent Medicine and the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, as well as staff from nursing, nutrition, social work, child life and others as needed.

About 1% of all children in the United States suffer from chronic malnutrition. In addition, acute malnutrition can occur in the context of illnesses that emerge during adolescence, including eating disorders. For a variety of reasons, these children and adolescents do not receive enough essential nutrients needed to grow and maintain healthy tissues and organ function.

To qualify for admission to the Adolescent Malnutrition Service, youth must:

  • Be between the ages of 10 and 18 (or up to age 21 if they qualify for CHOP programs);
  • Experience weight loss that has impacted their medical stability; and
  • Exhibit physical signs, such as low heart rate, low blood pressure and abnormal laboratory results.

Malnutrition may stem from a behavioral or mental health issue, such as severe depression, anxiety or an eating disorder, or be related to a physical problem such as a gastrointestinal (GI) or endocrine issue (such as unmanaged diabetes). All patients admitted to the Malnutrition Service will receive medical, nutritional and behavioral health consultations during their inpatient stay.

Patients who need intensive inpatient treatment will be hospitalized on either:

Patients of the Malnutrition Service are generally hospitalized for 10 to 14 days or until they are medically stable.

When patients are medically stable, they will be discharged from the Malnutrition Service and their care transitioned to providers at CHOP or in the community. All will require ongoing medical care.

Patients may be followed by CHOP’s Adolescent Medicine team, a specialty clinical team (such as Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition, Endocrinology, Clinical Nutrition) at CHOP, or specialty and primary care providers in the community.

If ongoing behavioral healthcare is needed, patients may be referred to: