Comparison of the Prevalence of Malnutrition Diagnosis in Head and Neck, Gastrointestinal, and Lung Cancer Patients by 3 Classification Methods

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Background:Malnutrition is prevalent among patients within certain cancer types. There is lack of universal standard of care for nutrition screening and a lack of agreement on an operational definition and on validity of malnutrition indicators.Objective:In a secondary data analysis, we investigated prevalence of malnutrition diagnosis with 3 classification methods using data from medical records of a National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center.Methods:Records of 227 patients hospitalized during 1998 with head and neck, gastrointestinal, or lung cancer were reviewed for malnutrition based on 3 methods: (1) physician-diagnosed malnutrition-related International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision codes; (2) in-hospital nutritional assessment summaries conducted by registered dietitians; and (3) body mass indexes (BMIs). For patients with multiple admissions, only data from the first hospitalization were included.Results:Prevalence of malnutrition diagnosis ranged from 8.8% based on BMI to approximately 26% of all cases based on dietitian assessment. κ coefficients between any methods indicated a weak (κ = 0.23, BMI and dietitians; and κ = 0.28, dietitians and physicians)-to-fair strength of agreement (κ = 0.38, BMI and physicians).Conclusions:Available methods to identify patients with malnutrition in a National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center resulted in varied prevalence of malnutrition diagnosis. A universal standard of care for nutrition screening that uses validated tools is needed.Implications for Practice:The Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations requires nutritional screening of patients within 24 hours of admission. For this purpose, implementation of a validated tool that can be used by various healthcare practitioners, including nurses, needs to be considered.

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