Prevalence of hospital-acquired malnutrition and modifiable determinants of nutritional deterioration during inpatient admissions: A systematic review of the evidence

Publication Name

Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics


Background: Malnutrition affects between 20% and 50% of hospital inpatients on admission, with further declines expected during hospitalisation. This review summarises the existing literature on hospital-acquired malnutrition that examines the magnitude of nutritional deterioration amongst adult inpatients and identifies preventable barriers to optimising nutrition support during episodes of care. Methods: A systematic review was conducted to answer the question: Among adult hospital inpatients, the presence of which modifiable factors contribute to hospital-acquired malnutrition? A database search was conducted between the 24 April and 30 June 2020 using CINAHL, MEDLINE, Scopus and PubMed databases according to a protocol registered with PROSPERO (CD42020182728). In addition, issues of the 10 top clinical nutrition journals published during the period of from 1 April 2015 to 30 March 2020 were hand-searched. Results: Fifteen articles were eligible for inclusion from a total of 5944 retrieved abstracts. A narrative synthesis of evidence was completed because of the high level of heterogeneity in methodologies. Nutritional deterioration is common among previously well-nourished and nutritionally compromised patients, with studies reporting that 10%–65% of patients experienced nutritional decline. Frequently reported barriers were mealtime interruptions, meal dissatisfaction, procedure-related fasting, effects of illness or treatment, chewing difficulties, poor appetite and malnutrition as a low clinical priority. Conclusions: The findings of this review support the need for routine nutritional risk screening throughout each hospital admission with hospital-acquired malnutrition affecting up to 65% of inpatients. Clear establishment of the roles and responsibilities of each member within multidisciplinary healthcare teams in the provision of nutrition care and cost–benefit analyses are recommended to demonstrate the effectiveness of changes to models of care.

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