Characteristics and Outcomes of Adult Inpatients With Malnutrition

Vest MT, Papas MA, Shapero M, McGraw P, Capizzi A, Jurkovitz C

JPEN J Parenter Enteral Nutr 2018 Aug;42(6):1009-1016

PMID: 29360158


BACKGROUND: The diagnosis of malnutrition remains controversial. Furthermore, it is unknown if physician diagnosis of malnutrition impacts outcomes. We sought to compare outcomes of patients with physician diagnosed malnutrition to patients recognized as malnourished by registered dietitians (RDs), but not physicians, and to describe the impact of each of 6 criteria on the diagnosis of malnutrition.

METHODS: We conducted a retrospective cohort study of adult patients identified as meeting criteria for malnutrition. Pediatric, psychiatric, maternity, and rehabilitation patients were excluded. Patient demographics, clinical data, malnutrition type and criteria, nutrition interventions, and outcomes were abstracted from the electronic medical record.

RESULTS: RDs identified malnutrition for 291 admissions during our study period. This represents 4.1% of hospital discharges. Physicians only diagnosed malnutrition on 93 (32%) of these cases. Physicians diagnosed malnutrition in 43% of patients with a body mass index <18.5 but only 26% of patients with body mass index higher than 18.5. Patients with a physician diagnosis had a longer length of stay (mean 14.9 days vs 7.1 days) and were more likely to receive parenteral nutrition (PN) (20.4% vs 4.6%). Of the patients, 62% had malnutrition due to chronic illness. Of the 6 criteria used to identify malnourished patients, weight loss and reduced energy intake were the most common.

CONCLUSIONS: Malnutrition is underrecognized by physicians. However, further research is needed to determine if physician recognition and treatment of malnutrition can improve outcomes. The most important criteria for identifying malnourished patients in our cohort were weight loss and reduced energy intake.

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