Natural history of feeding-tube use in nursing home residents with advanced dementia

J Am Med Dir Assoc. 2009 May;10(4):264-70. doi: 10.1016/j.jamda.2008.10.010. Epub 2009 Jan 9.


Objectives: Despite the evidence that feeding-tube use in persons with advanced dementia is not associated with improved outcomes, there remains striking variation in their use. Yet, little is known about the national incidence of feeding-tube insertions, the circumstances of their insertion, and post-insertion health care use.

Design: Secondary analysis of Minimum Data Set merged onto Medicare Claims Files.

Setting and participants: Nursing home residents (NHR) without a feeding tube.

Measurements: NHR were followed for up to 1 year to see whether a feeding tube was inserted and then followed for 1 year after insertion to examine health care use and survival.

Results: The incidence of feeding-tube insertion was 53.6/1000 residents. Most (68.1%) feeding-tube insertions were performed in an acute care hospital with the most common reasons for admission being pneumonia, dehydration, and dysphagia. One year post-insertion mortality was 64.1% with median survival of 56 days. Within 1 year, 19.3% of those who had a feeding tube inserted required a tube replacement or repositioning within a median 145 days after the initial insertion. Over 1 year, tube feeding was associated with an average of 9.1 hospitalized days per person, 1.0 hospitalizations, 0.3 emergency room visits that did not result in a hospital admission.

Conclusion: Most feeding tubes are inserted in an acute care hospital. Feeding-tube insertions are also associated with poor survival and significant rate of health care use after insertion.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Advance Directives / statistics & numerical data
  • Age Distribution
  • Aged
  • Continental Population Groups / statistics & numerical data
  • Dementia / epidemiology*
  • Disabled Persons
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Homes for the Aged*
  • Hospitalization / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Intubation, Gastrointestinal*
  • Life Expectancy
  • Male
  • Nursing Homes*
  • Pressure Ulcer / epidemiology
  • Prospective Studies
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Sex Distribution
  • Survival Analysis
  • United States / epidemiology