Failure to thrive is failure to maintain a normal rate of growth such that the individual's growth rate falls significantly behind that of the normal population.
This is a common discovery in paediatrics, and the occasionally serious underlying aetiology reflects the importance of regular, accurate measurements of children's growth. These are then plotted on growth charts on which are drawn the mean and range of parameters such as head circumference, height and weight.
Failure to thrive is best described as failure to advance along a centile on a growth chart. Thus, a child whose weight is on the 3rd centile, and always has been, is not failing to thrive, whereas the child who is now on the 3rd centile, after having been on the 50th, is failing to thrive.
Last reviewed 01/2018