Nutrition screening tools: does one size fit all? A systematic review of screening tools for the hospital setting

Clin Nutr. 2014 Feb;33(1):39-58. doi: 10.1016/j.clnu.2013.04.008. Epub 2013 Apr 19.


Background & aims: Numerous nutrition screening tools for the hospital setting have been developed. The aim of this systematic review is to study construct or criterion validity and predictive validity of nutrition screening tools for the general hospital setting.

Methods: A systematic review of English, French, German, Spanish, Portuguese and Dutch articles identified via MEDLINE, Cinahl and EMBASE (from inception to the 2nd of February 2012). Additional studies were identified by checking reference lists of identified manuscripts. Search terms included key words for malnutrition, screening or assessment instruments, and terms for hospital setting and adults. Data were extracted independently by 2 authors. Only studies expressing the (construct, criterion or predictive) validity of a tool were included.

Results: 83 studies (32 screening tools) were identified: 42 studies on construct or criterion validity versus a reference method and 51 studies on predictive validity on outcome (i.e. length of stay, mortality or complications). None of the tools performed consistently well to establish the patients' nutritional status. For the elderly, MNA performed fair to good, for the adults MUST performed fair to good. SGA, NRS-2002 and MUST performed well in predicting outcome in approximately half of the studies reviewed in adults, but not in older patients.

Conclusions: Not one single screening or assessment tool is capable of adequate nutrition screening as well as predicting poor nutrition related outcome. Development of new tools seems redundant and will most probably not lead to new insights. New studies comparing different tools within one patient population are required.

Keywords: Assessment; Construct validity; Hospital; Malnutrition; Predictive validity; Screening; Systematic review.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Hospitalization*
  • Humans
  • Malnutrition / diagnosis*
  • Nutrition Assessment*
  • Nutritional Status
  • Validation Studies as Topic