Use of hand grip strength in nutrition risk screening of older patients admitted to general surgical wards

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Hand grip strength (HGS) has been proposed as an indicator of nutritional status that is objective, requires minimal assessor training and is quick to administer, making it attractive for use in the acute setting. This study aimed to determine the discriminatory ability of impaired HGS to screen for malnutrition in an older hospital population and assess the added value of combining this with existing screening tools.


Measures were undertaken during acute admission in patients ≥65 years admitted to general surgical wards. Impaired HGS was defined as a mean value below the lower limit of the 95% CI of population norms and observed HGS standardised as a percentage of this value. Nutritional risk was assessed using the Malnutrition Screening Tool (MST) and malnutrition defined as Patient-Generated Subjective Global Assessment (PG-SGA) rating B or C. Discriminatory ability of impaired HGS to identify malnourished patients was tested using the area under the receiver operating characteristic curve (AUC).


Seventy-five patients (mean age: 74.0 (SD 6.7) years, 60% male) were recruited. Impaired HGS did not accurately identify malnutrition (AUC (95% CI): 0.41 (0.25–0.58), P < 0.001), nor did it improve discriminatory ability of the MST (AUC (95% CI), MST: 0.83 (0.71–0.95), P = 0.32; MST/HGS combined: 0.68 (0.51–0.86), P = 0.035).


HGS was not found to be suitable in screening older inpatients for malnutrition during admission to surgical wards. As such, screening for nutrition risk using an existing validated tool to identify patients for further in-depth nutritional assessment by an appropriately trained clinician remains the preferred method.

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