Clinical Measurement Properties of Malnutrition Assessment Tools for Use with Patients in Hospitals: A Systematic Review

Nutrition Journal. 2020 Sep 21; 19(1):106. doi: 10.1186/s12937-020-00613-0.
Xu, Y. C., & Vincent, J. I.


Background: The use of malnutrition outcome measures (OM) by registered dietitians (RD) with inpatients in hospitals has increased promoting the achievement of nutritional care goals and supporting decision-making for the allocation of nutritional care resources in hospitals. There are 3 commonly used OMs: Subjective Global Assessment (SGA), Patient Generated-Subjective Global Assessment (PG-SGA) and Mini Nutritional Assessment (MNA). The purpose of this current study was to systematically review the evidence of the clinical measurement properties of malnutrition assessment tools for use with patients admitted in hospitals.

Methods: MEDLINE, Cinahl, EMBASE, and PubMed were searched for articles published between 2000 and 2019. Research articles were selected if they established reliability, validity, and responsiveness to change properties of the SGA, PG-SGA and MNA tools, were written in English, and used any of these OMs as an outcome measure. Abstracts were not considered. The risk of bias within studies was assessed using the Quality Appraisal for Clinical Measurement Study (QA-CMS).

Results: Five hundred five studies were identified, of which 34 articles were included in the final review: SGA (n = 8), PG-SGA (n = 13), and MNA (n = 13). Of the 34 studies, 8 had a quality score greater than 75%; 23 had a quality score of 40-75% and 3 studies had a quality score of less than 40%. PG-SGA was found to have excellentdiagnostic accuracy (ROC: 0.92-0.975; Sensitivity: 88.6-98%; Specificity: 82-100%), sufficient internal consistency (Cronbach's alpha: 0.722-0.73), and strong test-retest reliability (r = 0.866). There was insufficient evidence to suggest adequate diagnostic accuracy and good inter-rater reliability for SGA. Only one study examined the minimum detectable change of MNA (MDC = 2.1).

Conclusions: The evidence of validity for the existing malnutrition assessment tools supports the use of these tools, but more studies with sound methodological quality are needed to assess the responsiveness of these OMs to detect the change in nutritional status.

Information NutriBib

Reference work for leading, current and selected literature in the field of clinical nutrition

Publications on clinical nutrition have grown steadily in recent years and the scientific evidence has been improved by numerous observational as well as intervention studies. Various umbrella organisations, such as the Swiss Society for Clinical Nutrition (GESKES), the German Society for Nutritional Medicine (DGEM) or the European Society for Clinical Nutrition and Metabolism (ESPEN) publish guidelines on nutrition in various clinical situations at regular intervals. Thus, a large amount of literature is available for evidence-based nutritional medicine.

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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