Malnutrition and clinical outcomes: the case for medical nutrition therapy

J Am Diet Assoc. 1996 Apr;96(4):361-6, 369; quiz 367-8. doi: 10.1016/s0002-8223(96)00099-5.


Malnutrition is not a new or a rare problem. In studies involving more than 1,327 hospitalized adult patients, 40% to 55% were found to be either malnourished or at risk for malnutrition, and up to 12% were severely malnourished. Surgical patients with likelihood of malnutrition are two to three times more likely to have minor and major complications as well as increased mortality; and their length of stay can be extended by 90% compared with the stay of well-nourished patients. Hospital charges are reported to be from 35% to 75% higher for malnourished patients than for well-nourished patients. Obtaining data to assess the nutritional status of patients is essential to optimal patient care, especially for patients at high risk for malnutrition. Nutrition assessment can be done with readily available and relatively inexpensive methods. But it is not enough to assess and identify malnutrition. Outcomes are improved and costs are saved only when appropriate intervention follows. This article identifies many well-conducted, published studies that support the findings that health outcomes of malnourished patients can be improved and that overall use of resources can be reduced by nutrition counseling, oral diet and oral supplements, enteral formula delivered via tube, and parenteral nutrition support via central or peripheral line. Early nutrition assessment and appropriate nutrition intervention must be accepted as essential for the delivery of quality health care. Appropriately selected nutrition support can address the problem of malnutrition, improve clinical outcomes, and help reduce the costs of health care.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Health Care Costs
  • Humans
  • Nutrition Disorders / economics
  • Nutrition Disorders / epidemiology
  • Nutrition Disorders / therapy*
  • Nutritional Support*
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors