Background: The provision of artificial enteral nutrition to an aged person with severe cognitive impairment is a complex dilemma in the long-term care setting.
Objective: To determine the risk factors and impact on survival of feeding tubes in nursing home residents with advanced cognitive impairment.
Methods: We conducted a cohort study with 24-month follow-up using Minimum Data Set resident assessments on 1386 nursing home residents older than 65 years with recent progression to severe cognitive impairment in the state of Washington. Residents within this population who underwent feeding tube placement were identified. Clinical characteristics and survival for a period of 24 months were compared for residents who were and were not tube fed.
Results: Among the residents with recent progression to severe cognitive impairment, 9.7% underwent placement of a feeding tube. Factors independently associated with feeding tube placement included age younger than 87 years (odds ratio [OR], 1.85; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.25-2.78), aspiration (OR, 5.46; 95% CI, 2.66-11.20), swallowing problems (OR, 3.00; 95% CI, 1.81-4.97), pressure ulcer (OR, 1.64; 95% CI, 1.23-2.95), stroke (OR, 2.12; 95% CI, 1.17-2.62), less baseline functional impairment (OR, 2.07; 95% CI, 1.27-3.36), no do-not-resuscitate order (OR, 3.03; 95% CI, 1.92-4.85), and no dementia (OR, 2.17; 95% CI, 1.43-3.22). Survival did not differ between groups of residents with and without feeding tubes even after adjusting for independent risk factors for feeding tube placement.
Conclusions: There are specific risk factors associated with feeding tube placement in nursing home residents with severe cognitive impairment. However, there is no survival benefit compared with similar residents who are not tube fed. These prognostic data are important for health care providers, families, and patients making decisions regarding enteral nutritional support in long-term care.