The Nutritional Strategy: Four Questions Predict Morbidity, Mortality and Health Care Costs

Clinical Nutrition. 2014 Aug; 33(4):634-41. doi: 10.1016/j.clnu.2013.09.008.
Tangvik, R. J., Tell, G. S., Eisman, J. A., Guttormsen, A. B., Henriksen, A., Nilsen, R. M., Øyen, J., & Ranhoff, A. H.


Background: Nutritional care for hospital in-patients is potentially important but challenging.

Objective: To investigate the association between nutritional status and clinical outcomes.

Methods: Eight prevalence surveys were performed at Haukeland University Hospital, Norway, during 2008-2009. In total 3279 patients were classified as being at nutritional risk or not according to the Nutritional Risk Screening (NRS 2002) tool. The initial four questions of NRS 2002 assess dietary intake, weight loss, body mass index (BMI) and illness severity.

Results: The overall prevalence of nutritional risk was 29%. Adjusted mean days for hospitalisation was 8.3 days for patients at nutritional risk and 5.0 days for patients not at risk (p < 0.001). In adjusted models, patients at nutritional risk had increased one-year mortality (OR 4.07, 95% CI 2.90-5.70), morbidity (OR 1.59, 95% CI 1.18-2.13), and were 1.24 (95% CI 1.16-1.32) times more likely to have had a new admission during the three previous years and the one subsequent year, compared to patients not at risk. A 'positive' response to the initial four questions was associated with increased risk of morbidity and mortality. Patients with a reduced dietary intake during the last weeks had OR 1.72 (95% CI 1.03-2.85) for one-year mortality. Patients with a positive answer on all the initial four questions had ten times increased risk for mortality the following year, OR 13.0 (95% CI 4.52-37.6).

Conclusion: The four initial questions of the NRS 2002 robustly identify nutritional risk and were strong predictors of hospitalisation, morbidity and most importantly mortality among hospitalised patients. Thus, these simpler and short questions are robust indicators for subsequent poor outcomes.

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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