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Pediatr Emerg Care. 2009 Dec;25(12):816-8. doi: 10.1097/PEC.0b013e3181c32eb6.

Analysis of parental and nurse weight estimates of children in the pediatric emergency department.

Author information

  • 1Department of Pediatrics, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA. rebecca.partridge@seattlechildrens.org



To evaluate the accuracy of parent and triage nurse estimates of children's weights in the pediatric emergency department.


A convenience sample of parents was surveyed before triage regarding their child's chief complaint, when and where the child was last weighed, and an estimate of their child's weight. Children unable to be weighed or with possible dehydration or external orthopedic devices were excluded. Nurses also estimated children's weights before weighing them and were blinded to parent estimates. All nurses were experienced in the department, had participated in a triage course, and had completed a background survey.


Nine hundred forty-two patients presenting to pediatric emergency department triage were enrolled, resulting in 812 surveys. Parents were more accurate at weight estimation than nurses, with 79% of parents and 83% of legal guardians estimating weights within 10%. Only 55% of nurse estimates were within 10%. Parents and nurses tended to underestimate patients' weights (P < 0.0001). Parent estimates were not affected by a child's age or sex or the location the child was last weighed (P > 0.05). Accuracy of nurse estimates was not related to nurse education or experience (P > 0.05). Parent estimates of weight were more accurate than nurse estimates 74.6% of the time.


Parents were more accurate at estimating children's weights than triage nurses but were within 10% of the children's actual weights only 79% of the time. Nurse estimates were highly inaccurate. Other methods to estimate patient weights should be used when actual patient weights are unobtainable.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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