Document Type




Publication Date



Taylor & Francis

Source Publication

Comprehensive Child and Adolescent Nursing

Source ISSN



Pediatric obesity is a major health concern that has an increased prevalence in children with special needs. In order to categorize a child’s weight, an assessment of body composition is needed. Obtaining an accurate body composition measurement in children with special needs has many challenges associated with it. This perplexing scenario limits the provider’s ability to screen, prevent and treat an abnormal weight status in this vulnerable population. This systematic review summarizes common methods of body composition measurements, their strengths and limitations and reviews the literature when measurements were used in children with cerebral palsy, spina bifida and spinal cord injury. Following PRISMA guidelines, 222 studies were identified. The application of the inclusion and exclusion criteria yielded a final sample of nine studies included in this review. Overall, articles reinforced the inconsistencies of body composition measurement and methodology when used with children with special needs. Concerns include small sample sizes, the need to validate prediction equations for this population, and the lack of controlled trials and reporting of measurement methodology. Healthcare providers need to be aware of the complexities associated with measuring body composition in children with special needs and advocate for further testing of these measurements. Additional studies addressing the reliability and validity of these measures are needed to facilitate appropriate health promotion in children.


Accepted version. Comprehensive Child and Adolescent Nursing, Vol. 39, No. 3 (2016): 166-191. DOI. © 2016 Taylor & Francis. Used with permission.

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