Growth Charts for Children with Down Syndrome in the United States

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A CDC-funded study in Pediatrics provides new growth charts for children with Down syndrome in the United States. Healthcare providers can use these new charts to monitor growth among children with Down syndrome and assess how well a child with Down syndrome is growing when compared to peers with Down syndrome.
Read the abstract of the paper here.

What did we already know?

Children with Down syndrome have a different growth pattern compared to children without Down syndrome. Improvements in access to and the quality of medical care have led to better health, well-being, and life expectancy for children with Down syndrome. However, previous growth charts for children with Down syndrome in the United States did not reflect these improvements in care.

What does this study add?

In this CDC-funded study published in Pediatrics, researchers from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia present new growth charts for children with Down syndrome in the United States. They also compared these new U.S. growth charts with the older U.S. growth charts for children with Down syndrome as well as with more recent charts from the United Kingdom.

What were this study’s main findings?

  • When compared to previous U.S. growth charts for children with Down syndrome
    • There are clear improvements in weight gain during the first three years of life.
    • Males (aged 2-20 years) are taller.
  • New U.S. growth charts provide information on these indicators:
    • For children from birth to three years of age
      • Length/height (length is measured unless the child can stand unsupported, in which case, height is measured)
      • Weight
      • Weight-for-length
      • Head circumference
    • For individuals aged 2-20 years
      • Height
      • Weight
      • Head circumference (measurement around the largest area of a child’s head)
      • Body mass index (BMI, an assessment of a person’s weight in relation to his or her height)

About this Study

  • For this study researchers took growth measurements from a group of 637 individuals with Down syndrome from birth through 22 years of age. Individuals with Down syndrome were recruited from medical and community locations, mostly from the Philadelphia area.
  • Researchers collected measurements from study participants on a regular schedule:
    • Every three months for participants younger than one year of age
    • Every six months for participants from 1-3 years of age
    • Once per year for participants older than three years of age
  • Researchers collected a total of 1,520 growth measurements and then analyzed the measurements to develop separate charts for males and females.
  • Future studies should look at how BMI affects the health status of children with Down syndrome.

Down syndrome: CDC activities

CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities works with partners to learn more about Down syndrome through tracking and research.

  • Tracking: Tracking the occurrence of Down syndrome gives us important clues for opportunities to improve health outcomes and plan for the needs of families.
  • Research: To understand how Down syndrome impacts affected children and their families, CDC and its partners conduct studies on health services use and survival, and differences that occur for people with Down syndrome in different racial and ethnic groups.

CDC and its partners continue to look at these issues to improve the lives of children and families affected by Down syndrome.

More Information

Are you a parent of a child with Down syndrome?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) developed a special guide for parents to help monitor their child’s medical care. To access this guide, visit https://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/developmental-disabilities/Pages/Children-with-Down-Syndrome-Health-Care-Information-for-Families.aspx

Are you a doctor who provides care to children with Down syndrome?
Add these new growth charts to your toolkit. For more information on health care for children with Down syndrome, read AAP’S guidelines.

For more information about Down syndrome or to read about families affected by Down syndrome, visit the following webpages:

Key Findings Reference

Zemel BS, Pipan M, Stallings VA, Hall W, Schadt K, Freedman DS, Thorpe P. Growth Charts for Children with Down Syndrome in the U.S. Pediatrics. 2015 [epub ahead of print].

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