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Prevalence of malnutrition and 12-month incidence of mortality in two Sydney teaching hospitals

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Aims: The objectives of the present study were to determine: (i) the prevalence of malnutrition in two Sydney teaching hospitals using Subjective Global Assessment (SGA), (ii) the effect of malnutrition on 12-month mortality and (iii) the proportion of patients previously identified to be at nutritional risk.

Methods: A prospective study using SGA to assess nutritional status of eligible inpatients, from April to September 1997, with a 12-month follow-up to assess mortality. A total of 819 patients was systematically selected from 2194 eligible patients. Patients were excluded if they were under the age of 18, had dementia or communication difficulties, or were under obstetric or critical care. The main outcome measures were prevalence of malnutrition, 12-month incidence of mortality, proportion of patients identified with malnutrition, and hospital length of stay (LOS).

Results: The prevalence rate of malnutrition was 36%. The proportion of malnourished patients was not significantly different between the two hospitals (P = 0.4). The actuarial incidence of mortality at 12 months after assessment was 29.7% in malnourished subjects compared with 10.1% in well-nourished subjects (P < 0.0005). Malnourished subjects had a significantly longer median LOS (17 days vs 11 days, P < 0.0005) and were significantly older (median 71 years vs 63 years, P < 0.0005) than well-nourished subjects. Only 36% of the malnourished patients had been previously identified as being at nutritional risk.

Conclusions: Malnutrition in Australian hospitals is a continuing health concern and is associated with increased LOS and decreased survival after 12 months. The present study revealed that malnourished patients were not regularly identified. Further studies are required to determine whether routine identification of malnutrition and subsequent nutritional intervention are effective in improving clinical outcomes in these individuals. (Intern Med J 2001; 31: 455–461)
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Keywords: 12-month mortality; length of stay; prevalence of malnutrition

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Nutrition & Dietetics 2: Nutrition Services 3: Haematology, St Vincent’s Hospital, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia 4: Aged Care, The St George Hospital

Publication date: 2001-11-01

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