Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Dementia and Futile Feeding Tubes.

Update: The GeriPal post on this subject is well worth reading.

From EurekAlert, a new study to be published in tomorrow's Journal of the American Medical Association shows that many patients suffering demential are given futile feeding tubes at end of life.

This study, conducted over 8 years by Brown University and Harvard Medical School, will hopefully draw attention to the Catholic Church's new Ethical and Religious Directive - used to govern more than 624 hospitals in the US - that considers artificial nutrition and hydration to be "obligatory" care, thus defying patients' advance directives (living wills) regarding end of life choices and enforcing futile care.

From EurekAlert:

Their position follows an eight-year study, which found that the use of feeding tubes varies widely. Among their major findings: At 25 percent of the nation's acute-care hospitals, this vulnerable population had a one in 10 chance of having a feeding tube inserted. Twelve percent of acute-care hospitals did not insert a feeding tube at all.

Medical evidence has long suggested that feeding tubes do not improve survival or overall outcomes in patients with dementia, a terminal illness that affect a patient's mind and eventually the ability to eat.

Details of the study are outlined in the Feb. 10, 2010, issue of JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association.

"Our results suggest that decisions to insert a feeding tube in persons with advanced dementia are more about which hospital you are admitted to than a decision-making process that elicits and supports patient choice," said Dr. Joan M. Teno, lead author and professor of community health and medicine at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University.

The range of feeding tube use varies widely. Researchers found the rate of feeding tube insertions per 100 hospital admissions varied from 0 to 39, depending on the hospital. On average, 6.5 out of every 100 admissions resulted in a feeding tube insertion.

Teno and the other researchers conducted their study by looking at nearly 2,800 acute-care hospitals. They sifted through Medicare claim files involving more than 280,000 admissions from 2000 to 2007 to determine the rate of feeding tube insertions among hospitalized nursing home residents over age 66 with advanced dementia. They looked at hospitals with at least 30 admissions involving nursing home residents with advanced dementia during that period.

Hospitals with a culture of aggressive care at the end of life were nearly three times more likely to insert a feeding tube, according to the study. Larger or for-profit hospitals tended to use them more. Smaller, rural hospitals not affiliated with medical schools used them far less frequently.

Second author Dr. Susan Mitchell, associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical school, said the data points to a clear need to examine how treatment decisions are made for patients with advanced dementia.

"Our results call for acute-care hospitals to examine how decisions are made for nursing home residents with advanced dementia, to ensure the decisions reflect patient wishes and values," Mitchell said.

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Anonymous Preston Benjamin said...

Excellent study for our loved ones in a nursing home with regard to end of life choices.

Thank you for posting this useful article. Keep it coming.

February 11, 2010 at 6:58 PM  
Blogger Michael Kirsch, M.D. said...

Despite the literature documenting that feeding tubes are often futile, why do physicians like me still place them? See www.MDWhistleblower.blogspot.com

March 14, 2010 at 6:36 AM  
Blogger Ann Neumann said...

Thanks Preston, for stopping by. And thank you Dr. Kirsch for your post on feeding tubes. I'll add it as a separate entry to my blog in the hopes that more people read it. Best, Ann

March 14, 2010 at 7:45 AM  

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