Gastrostomy placement and mortality among hospitalized Medicare beneficiaries

JAMA. 1998 Jun 24;279(24):1973-6. doi: 10.1001/jama.279.24.1973.


Context: Although the use of feeding tubes among older individuals stirs considerable controversy, population-based descriptive data regarding patient outcomes are scarce.

Objective: To describe hospitalized Medicare beneficiaries having gastrostomies placed and their associated mortality rates.

Design: Retrospective cohort study.

Setting and patients: Hospitalized Medicare beneficiaries aged 65 years or older discharged in 1991 following gastrostomy placement (excluding individuals in health maintenance organizations).

Main outcome measures: Mortality at 30 days, 1 year, and 3 years following gastrostomy and characteristics of individuals undergoing gastrostomy placement.

Results: In 1991, claims reflecting gastrostomy insertion were submitted for 81105 older Medicare beneficiaries following hospital discharge. The in-hospital mortality rate was 15.3%. Cerebrovascular disease, neoplasms, fluid and electrolyte disorders, and aspiration pneumonia were the most common primary diagnoses. The overall mortality rate at 30 days was 23.9% (95% confidence interval [CI], 23.65%-24.2%), reaching 63.0% (95% CI, 62.7%-63.4%) at 1 year and 81.3% (95% CI, 81.0%-81.5%) by 3 years. One in 131 white and 1 in 58 black Medicare beneficiaries aged 85 years or older was discharged alive or deceased from a hospital in 1991 following gastrostomy placement.

Conclusions: Gastrostomies are frequently placed in older individuals and more often in blacks; mortality rates following placement are substantial.

MeSH terms

  • African Americans / statistics & numerical data
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Gastrostomy / statistics & numerical data*
  • Hospital Mortality
  • Hospitalization*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medicare
  • Mortality*
  • Outcome and Process Assessment, Health Care*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Survival Analysis
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Whites / statistics & numerical data