Background Appropriate nutrition and growth are vital components of neonatal care. The most commonly used measures of growth in neonates are weight and head circumference, but these have limitations. Linear growth measurement is the best indicator of dietary adequacy and it most closely relates to lean body mass. There is currently no standardised practice of assessment of length in the neonatal period.
Methods We are keen to investigate whether length measurement is being used as a growth parameter for neonates in England. A survey of all tertiary neonatal units in England was conducted in August 2013. Questionnaire completed via phone calls or e mails. 3 main domains were surveyed: practice of measuring length, methods used and barriers to routine practice.
Results Response rate was 98% from 43/44 tertiary neonatal units in England. 44% of the units do measure length. Of which, less than half measure at birth/admission but many measure when infants are more stable.
Measuring mat/tape and the Leicester incubator scale were the most commonly used equipment. Barriers to not measure were doubts of usefulness and accuracy in 10/23 (43%) and 7/23 (30%) respectively.
Conclusion There is no standardised procedure for measuring length in tertiary neonatal units in England. We proposed that there should be a standardised protocol for the assessment of growth during the neonatal period. This should include regular measurements of weight, head circumference and linear growth. Need for further research, training and education are urgent.
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