Objective: Our objective was to estimate the effect of an improvement in nutrition, represented by albumin concentrations, on hospitalization, mortality, and Medicare end-stage renal disease (ESRD) program cost.
Design: Based on published trials, the impact of an improvement in serum albumin of +0.2 g/dL from a hypothetical nutritional program for severely malnourished patients with albumin < or = 3.5 g/dL (base case) was estimated by reassigning patients to higher albumin categories, along with outcome risks associated with the new albumin category.
Setting: Data from Fresenius Medical Care North America (Waltham, MA) were utilized in regression models to determine the association between albumin and change in albumin concentration with outcomes.
Results: Albumin < or = 3.5 g/dL was associated with a > 2-fold increase in death and hospitalization risk, compared to > or = 4 g/dL (P < .001) in this population. An increase in albumin concentration was associated with a lower risk of death and hospitalization, whereas a declining albumin concentration led to worse outcomes. Projections for the United States dialysis population from the base case showed approximately 1400 lives saved, approximately 6000 hospitalizations averted, and approximately $36 million in Medicare cost savings resulting from a reduction of approximately 20,000 hospital days. A sensitivity analysis, varying the albumin response to +0.1 and +0.3 g/dL combined with varying albumin responder rates to 25% and 75% of patients, revealed robust results.
Conclusion: Nutritional interventions that increase serum albumin by > or = 0.2 g/dL (e.g., via oral nutritional supplements) may lead to considerable improvements in mortality, hospitalization, and treatment costs.