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Arch Intern Med. 2001 Feb 26;161(4):594-9.

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

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  • 1Box 1070, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, NY 10029, USA.



The influence of tube feeding on survival in hospitalized patients with advanced dementia is controversial.


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.


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.


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).


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.

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