Pica: An Important and Unrecognized Problem in Pediatric Dialysis Patients

Chryso Pefkaros Katsoufis, Myerly Kertis, Judith McCullough, Tanya Pereira, Wacharee Seeherunvong, Jayanthi Chandar, Gaston Zilleruelo, Carolyn Abitbol

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Objective: Pica is the compulsive consumption of non-nutritive substances, and this disorder may occur more frequently in dialysis patients. The purpose of our study was to determine the prevalence of pica and the associated demographic and metabolic characteristics. Design: Retrospective, cross-sectional analysis. Setting: Hospital-based, outpatient, pediatric hemodialysis unit. Subjects: Eighty-seven pediatric patients on chronic dialysis therapy were interviewed. Sixty-seven patients were receiving hemodialysis, whereas the remaining 20 were maintained on peritoneal dialysis. The predominantly nonwhite (93%) patient population had a mean age of 17.2 ± 7.2 years. Dialysis efficiency, estimated by urea clearance per patient volume (Kt/V), averaged 1.5 ± 0.5. Intervention: Standard patient interview and documentation of laboratory and dialytic parameters. Main Outcome Measure: Prevalence of pica and associated comorbid conditions. Results: The survey indicated that 46% of patients experienced pica, further divided into simple "ice" pica (34.5%) versus "hard" pica (12.6%). Hard pica included the consumption of chalk, starch, sugar, soap, sand, clay, Ajax cleanser, sponge, wood, and potting soil. Patients on hemodialysis were 8.3 times more likely to have hard pica compared with those on peritoneal dialysis. Greater than 5 years on dialysis was associated with a 3.2 odds ratio of having pica (P = .02). Anemia was the most significant morbid association, occurring at an odds ratio of 4.4 (P = .001) for all pica and 10.6 (P = .004) for hard pica. Conclusion: Pica, therefore, is prevalent and potentially harmful, requiring further attention in the nutritional management of pediatric dialysis patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)567-571
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Renal Nutrition
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics
  • Nephrology


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