Original Article

Effect of Physician Education and Patient Counseling on Inpatient Nonsurgical Percutaneous Feeding Tube Placement Rate, Indications, and Outcome

Authors: Arun Swaminath, MD, George F. Longstreth, MD, Eva M. Runnman, MD, Su-Jau Yang, PhD


Background: The decision to place a percutaneous feeding tube (PFT) in patients who are at the end of life is multidimensional and often complicated. We assessed the effect of physician education and counseling for patients and their surrogates on inpatient nonsurgical (endoscopic and radiologic) PFT placement rates, indications, complications, and mortality.

Methods: In a pre-paid group practice, a geriatrician initiated a program of physician education and patient/surrogate counseling on the ethical and nutritional aspects of long-term enteral feeding. We compared rates of nonsurgical PFT placement (excluding those for cancer therapy or gastric decompression), indications, complications, and short- and long-term mortality in adult inpatients before (2004) and after (2005) the program.

Results: In 2004 and 2005, 115 and 60 inpatients underwent PFT placement, respectively. The annual number of hospital admissions was similar, but the rate of PFT placement declined (0.80% vs. 0.44%, P < 0.0001). The indications were cerebrovascular accident (42 [37%] versus 22 [37%]), dementia (15 [13%] versus 3 [5%]), other neurological disease (28 [24%] versus 16 [26%]), and miscellaneous disease (30 [26%] versus 19 [32%]); P > 0.05. Severe infectious complications occurred in 4 (3%) versus 0 (0%) patients, P > 0.05. Mortality (2004 versus 2005) at 30 days (23 [20%] versus 11 [18%]), 1 year (62 [54%] versus 29 [48%]) and 2 years (72 [63%] versus 31 [52%]) was similar, P > 0.05.

Conclusion: A pilot program of educating referring physicians and counseling patients and their surrogates reduced the rate of inpatient PFT placement by nearly 50%. Indications, severe complications and short- and long-term mortality remained unchanged.

Key Points

* Long-tem feeding through a percutaneous enteral tube is a common practice.

* In this study, a geriatrician was made available to provide value-neutral information to patients, families, and physicians when consideration was given to feeding tube placement.

* This study found a 50% decline in the rate of feeding tube placement in the year after the intervention with no significant change in the long-term mortality.

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