High short-term mortality in hospitalized patients with advanced dementia: Lack of benefit of tube feeding

Diane E. Meier, Judith C. Ahronheim, Jane Morris, Shari Baskin-Lyons, R. Sean Morrison

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

218 Scopus citations


Background: The influence of tube feeding on survival in hospitalized patients with advanced dementia is controversial. Objective: To assess long-term survival in an inception cohort, incident tube feeding placement during the index hospitalization, and the influence of tube feeding on survival in this group of patients. Subjects and Methods: Ninety-nine hospitalized patients with advanced dementia and an available surrogate decision maker were followed up through and after the index hospitalization for mortality and placement of a feeding tube. Other variables measured included advance directive status, presence of a long-term primary care physician, level of involvement of the surrogate decision maker, admitting diagnosis, prior hospitalizations, comorbidities, and diagnosis related group diagnostic category. Results: A new feeding tube was placed in 50% (51/99) of the study patients during the index hospitalization, 31% (31/99) left the hospital without a feeding tube, and 17% (17/99) were admitted with a feeding tube already in place. By stepwise logistic regression analysis, predictors of new feeding tube placement included African American ethnicity (odds ratio, 9.43; 95% confidence interval, 2.1-43.2) and residence in a nursing home (odds ratio, 4.9; 95% confidence interval, 1.02-2.5). Median survival of the 99 patients was 175 days. Eighty-five (85%) survived the index hospitalization, and 28 (28%) were still alive at last follow-up, a range of 1.3 to 4.2 years after enrollment in the study. Tube feeding was not associated with survival (P=.90). An admitting diagnosis of infection was associated with higher mortality (odds ratio, 1.9; 95% confidence interval, 1.01-3.6). Conclusions: In this cohort of hospitalized patients with advanced dementia, risk of receiving a new feeding tube is high, associated with African American ethnicity, and prior residence in a nursing home, and has no measurable influence on survival. With or without a feeding tube, these patients have a 50% six-month median mortality.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)594-599
Number of pages6
JournalArchives of Internal Medicine
Issue number4
StatePublished - 26 Feb 2001


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