Indications and Limitations of the Use of Subjective Global Assessment in Clinical Practice: An Update

Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care. 2006 May; 9(3):263-9. doi: 10.1097/01.mco.0000222109.53665.ed.
Barbosa-Silva, M. C., & Barros, A. J.


Purpose of review: Subjective global assessment is a clinical tool for assessing nutritional status that merges alterations in body composition and physiological function. Although it was first described almost two decades ago, many studies using this method have been published during the past few years. This review describes recent findings from such studies.

Recent findings: Subjective global assessment has proved to be a good nutritional assessment and prognostic indicator in several clinical situations. Agreement between subjective global assessment and newer screening methods is not always acceptable, and it has not been validated with respect to clinical outcome. Some modifications have been suggested that may increase the sensitivity of subjective global assessment as a screening tool. A scored version of subjective global assessment for cancer patients is now being validated for use in other patient groups. This could increase its utility in nutritional intervention studies if it can be demonstrated that subtle changes in nutritional status are reflected by numerical scores in patient-generated subjective global assessment.

Summary: Subjective global assessment represents a good option for assessing nutritional status in various clinical situations. As a screening tool, it better identifies established malnutrition than nutritional risk but its sensitivity is suboptimal. The scored version of subjective global assessment may have advantages and extend the usefulness of this tool even further.

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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