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Frequently Asked Questions | Overview

How long will a visit to the registered dietitian last at Boston Children's?

The length of your child's visit will depend on the diagnosis and what he or she is being treated for; it may take anywhere from one to two hours. Regardless of the type of visit, please prepare for waiting time in the clinic and the possibility of staying longer in case further tests and/or procedures are necessary.

What does the visit consist of? Will there be testing?

Each child’s visit is different, but most often our dietitians will discuss eating and food with you and your child, including food likes and dislikes, and growth history. Using this information, the dietitian will decide the best way to move forward. This may lead to further tests and procedures, depending on your child’s diagnosis.

What kinds of tests will my child need?

Depending on your child's diagnosis and reason for visiting, there are many possible tests that may be performed. Some tests may be measured at every visit and other tests are periodically measured. Possible tests and procedures include:

  • Weight, height, head circumference: growth measurements taken on a scale, stadiometer and using a tape measure.
  • Recording of dietary intake: may be just a 24-hour recall or you may be asked to fill out a form for a three-day food record.
  • Skinfold measurements: assesses body fat and muscle stores using calipers.
  • Labs: check blood levels for electrolytes, liver function test, vitamin and mineral levels and others as needed.
  • Urine samples: assessing for electrolyte, glucose and/or protein losses.
  • Stool collections: may be a one-time test or a 72-hour collection to check for fat malabsorption. If necessary, we may need to analyze it for other nutrient losses.
  • Indirect calorimetry: assesses energy expenditure using a computerized system where the patient lies under a clear hood, so the expired carbon dioxide is collected and analyzed.

Will any of these tests hurt?

No. With the exception of blood tests, none of the tests or exams that we do at the Nutrition Center are invasive or painful.

Do I have to bring my child with me?

Yes. It is very important for the dietitian to see the patient to be able to do a proper assessment. In addition, we may need to perform tests, such as arm anthropometrics, to best assess the nutritional status of your child. Part of our goal is to establish a baseline of measurements so we can review them during follow-up visits.

Is it better to see the registered dietitian (RD) first or the specialist that I'm seeing the same day, and then see the RD?

Because we work as a team, unless otherwise instructed prior to your visit, it does not matter in what order your child sees the dietitian and the specialist during the same visit.

Does Boston Children's have any RDs at the Boston Children's satellite location where I see my gastroenterology doctor?

Yes, there are nutritionists available at Lexington, Peabody, Waltham and Weymouth.

My child has not seen an RD yet, but we have a quick nutrition question. What should we do?

We want to be able to give you a meaningful response to your questions as quickly as possible. Because there is so much information we need to have in order to adequately and accurately answer your questions, we often recommend waiting for your child's RD visit.

How long will my child need to be at the hospital?

If your child is admitted to the hospital, the amount of time he or she will need to be in the hospital depends on the medical condition being treated. If your child is at the hospital for outpatient (ambulatory) care and only has a daytime appointment, then you and your child should plan to be here for one to two hours, unless there are additional appointments or procedures scheduled that day.

What can I expect after a visit with a registered dietitian?

As a parent, you should expect follow-up recommendations dependent on the diagnosis and outcome of the visit. If needed, the doctor will order special dietary/formula changes.

What can I do if I have questions after the visit?

Please feel free to contact the Nutrition Center staff at Boston Children's with any questions at 617-355-4677.

Questions that involve re-evaluation, new education or significant time lapse since your child's initial appointment will require a scheduled follow-up clinic visit.