Aims: The primary objective was to estimate prevalence of malnutrition on admission to four hospitals. Secondary objectives included assessing the relationship between nutritional status and length of hospital stay, numbers of new prescriptions, new infections and disease severity.
Methods: We entered eligible patients according to predefined quotas for elective and emergency admissions to 23 specialties. We measured height, weight, Body Mass Index and anthropometrics, and recorded history of unintentional weight loss. Patients who had lost > or = 10% of their body weight, had a Body Mass Index <20, or had a Body Mass Index <20 with one anthropometric measurement <15th centile were considered malnourished.
Results: Of 1611 eligible patients, 761 did not participate; 269 were too ill; 256 could not be weighed; and 236 refused consent. Eight hundred and fifty were subsequently evaluated. Prevalence of malnutrition on admission was 20%. Length of stay, new prescriptions and infections and disease severity were significantly higher in the malnourished.
Conclusions: One patient in every five admitted to hospital is malnourished. Although this figure is unacceptably high, it may underestimate true prevalence. Malnutrition was associated with increased length of stay, new prescriptions and infections. Malnutrition may also have contributed to disease severity.
Copyright 2000 Harcourt Publishers Ltd.