Choice of access route for artificial nutrition in cancer patients: 30 y of activity in a home palliative care setting

Nutrition. 2021 Oct:90:111264. doi: 10.1016/j.nut.2021.111264. Epub 2021 Apr 7.


Objectives: Malnutrition negatively affects the quality of life, survival, and clinical outcome of patients with cancer. Home artificial nutrition (HAN) is an appropriate nutritional therapy to prevent death from cachexia and to improve quality of life, and it can be integrated into a home palliative care program. The choice to start home enteral nutrition (HEN) or home parenteral nutrition (HPN) is based on patient-specific indications and contraindications. The aim of this observational study was to analyze the changes that occurred in the criteria for choosing the access route to artificial nutrition during 30 y of activity of a nutritional service team (NST) in a palliative home care setting, as well as to compare indications, clinical nutritional outcomes, and complications between HEN and HPN.

Methods: The following parameters were analyzed and compared for HEN and HPN: tumor site and metastases; nutritional status (body mass index, weight loss in the past 6 mo); basal energy expenditure and oral food intake; Karnofsky performance status; access routes to HEN (feeding tubes) and HPN (central venous catheters); water and protein-calorie support; and survival and complications of HAN.

Results: From 1990 to 2020, HAN was started in 1014 patients with cancer (592 men, 422 women; 65.6 ± 12.7 y of age); HPN was started in 666 patients (66%); and HEN was started in 348 patients (34%). At the end of the study, 921 patients had died, 77 had suspended HAN for oral refeeding and 16 were in the progress of HAN. The oral caloric intake was <50% basal energy expenditure in all patients: 721 (71.1%) were unable to eat at all (HEN 270, HPN 451), whereas in 293 patients (28.9%), artificial nutrition was supplementary to oral intake. From 2010 to 2020, the number of central venous catheters for HPN, especially peripherally inserted central catheters, doubled compared with that in the previous 20 y, with a decrease of 71.6% in feeding tubes for HEN. At the beginning, patients on HEN and HPN had comparable nutrition and performance status, and there was no difference in nutritional outcome after 1 mo of HAN. In 215 patients who started supplemental parenteral nutrition to oral feeding, total protein-calorie intake allowed a significant increase in body mass index and Karnofsky performance status. The duration of HEN was longer than that of HPN but was similar to that of supplemental parenteral nutrition.

Conclusions: Over 30 y of nutritional service team activity, the choice of central venous catheters as an access route to HAN increased progressively and significantly due to personalized patient decision-making choices. Nutritional efficacy was comparable between HEN and HPN. In patients who maintained food oral intake, supplemental parenteral nutrition improved weight, performance status, and survival better than other types of HAN.

Keywords: Cancer patient; Central venous catheter; Home artificial nutrition; Palliative care; Tube feeling.

Publication types

  • Observational Study

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Humans
  • Karnofsky Performance Status
  • Male
  • Neoplasms* / therapy
  • Palliative Care
  • Parenteral Nutrition, Home*
  • Quality of Life