Handgrip Strength, but Not 5-Meter Walk, Adds Value to a Clinical Nutrition Assessment

Nutrition in Clinical Practice. 2019 Jun; 34(3):428-435. doi: 10.1002/ncp.10198. Epub 2018 Oct 4.
McNicholl, T., Dubin, J. A., Curtis, L., Mourtzakis, M., Nasser, R., Laporte, M., & Keller, H.


Background: Decreased physical functioning is associated with malnutrition and common in acute care patients; determining loss of function is often considered part of a comprehensive nutrition assessment. Handgrip strength (HGS) and 5-meter timed walk (5m) are functional measures used in a variety of settings. This analysis sought to determine which functional measure could be added to a hospital nutrition assessment, based on its feasibility and capacity to discriminate patient subgroups.

Methods: Eligible medical patients (no delirium/dementia, admitted from community; n = 1250), recruited from 5 hospitals that participated in a previous multisite action research study, provided data on demographics, HGS, 5m, nutrition status, perceived disability, and other characteristics.

Results: Significantly more patients (z = 17.39, P < .00001) were able to complete HGS than 5m (92% versus 43%, respectively). Median HGS was 28.0 kg for men and 14.7 kg for women. Of patients who completed the 5m, mean completion time was 8.98 seconds (median, 6.79 seconds, SD = 6.59). 5m and HGS scores were significantly worse with patient-perceived disability (z = -9.56, t = 10.69, respectively; P < .0001; 95% confidence interval [CI], [7.33, 10.63]; [1.76, 3.18]). HGS was associated with nutrition status (t = 4.13, P < .001; 95% CI [2.02, 5.67]), although it showed poor validity as a single nutrition indicator.

Conclusions: These data indicate that HGS is a more useful functional measure than 5m when added to a hospital nutrition assessment. Determination of HGS cutpoints to identify low strength in acute care patients will promote its use.

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List of abbreviations

DGEM German Society for Nutritional Medicine (German Deutsche Gesellschaft für Ernährungsmedizin)
GESKES  Swiss Society for Clinical Nutrition (German Gesellschaft für klinische Ernährung der Schweiz) 
ESPEN European Society of Clinicl Nutrition and Metabolism