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Geriatrics. 1990 Sep;45(9):47-50, 53-5.

'Failure to thrive' in the elderly: diagnosis and management.

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  • 1Joseph M. Foley Elder Health Center, University Hospitals of Cleveland.


"Failure to thrive" (FTT) is a term used to describe a gradual decline in physical and/or cognitive function of an elderly patient, usually accompanied by weight loss and social withdrawal, that occurs without immediate explanation. Both age-related and sociodemographic factors predispose the elderly to FTT. The most common etiologies are dementia, depression, delirium, drug reactions, and a few chronic diseases. The diagnostic evaluation of patients with FTT includes a review of the patient's activities of daily living, cognitive function, and mood; a targeted history and physical examination; and selected laboratory studies. Early recognition and management of FTT can reduce the risk of further functional deterioration, hospitalization, or nursing home placement.

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