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April 12, 1976

Prevalence of Malnutrition in General Medical Patients

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Nutrition and Food Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge (Drs Bistrian and Blackburn), the departments of medicine (Dr Bistrian), surgery (Dr Blackburn), and pathology (Dr Vitale and Ms Naylor), Boston City Hospital, and the Nutrition Support Service, Cancer Research Institute, New England Deaconess Hospital, Boston (Drs Bistrian, Blackburn, and Mr Cochran).

JAMA. 1976;235(15):1567-1570. doi:10.1001/jama.1976.03260410023017

Three, single-day nutritional surveys at weekly intervals were conducted in the general medical wards of an urban municipal teaching hospital. The techniques of nutritional assessment included anthropometric measures (weight/height, triceps skin fold, arm-muscle circumference, serum albumin, and hematocrit). The prevalence of protein-calorie malnutrition was 44% or greater by these criteria (weight/height, 45%; triceps skin fold, 76%; arm-muscle circumference, 55%; serum albumin, 44%; and hematocrit, 48%). These results were reproducible without significant variation between surveys. In 34% of patients, a lymphopenia of 1,200 cells/cu mm or less was found, a level likely to be associated with diminished cell-mediated immunity. Compared with a similar survey among surgical patients, the medical patients were more depleted calorically (weight/height, triceps skin fold) but had better protein status (arm-muscle circumference, serum albumin). Significant protein-calorie malnutrition occurs commonly in municipal hospitals in both medical and surgical services.

(JAMA 235:1567-1570, 1976)

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