Choosing Wisely:

Don’t insert percutaneous feeding tubes in individuals with advanced dementia. Instead, offer oral assisted feedings.

Rationale and Comments: Strong evidence exists that artificial nutrition does not prolong life or improve quality of life in patients with advanced dementia. Substantial functional decline and recurrent or progressive medical illnesses may indicate that a patient who is not eating is unlikely to obtain any significant or long-term benefit from artificial nutrition. Feeding tubes are often placed after hospitalization, frequently with concerns for aspirations, and for those who are not eating. Contrary to what many people think, tube feeding does not ensure the patient’s comfort or reduce suffering; it may cause fluid overload, diarrhea, abdominal pain, local complications, less human interaction and may increase the risk of aspiration. Assistance with oral feeding is an evidence-based approach to provide nutrition for patients with advanced dementia and feeding problems.
Sponsoring Organizations:
  • American Medical Directors Association
  • Sources:
  • Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews
  • Disciplines:
  • Gastroenterologic
  • Geriatric Medicine
  • References: • Teno JM, Gozalo PL, Mitchell SL, Kuo S, Rhodes RL, Bynum JP, Mor V. Does feeding tube insertion and its timing improve survival? J Am Geriatr Soc. 2012 Oct;60(10):1918-21.
    • Hanson LC, Ersek M, Gilliam R, Carey TS. Oral feeding options for people with dementia: a systematic review. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2011;59(3):463-72.
    • Palecek EJ, Teno JM, Casarett DJ, Hanson LC, Rhodes RL, Mitchell SL. Comfort feeding only: a proposal to bring clarity to decision-making regarding difficulty with eating for persons with advanced dementia. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2010;58(3):580-4.
    • Sorrell JM. Use of feeding tubes in patients with advanced dementia: are we doing harm? J Psychosoc Nurs Ment Health Serv. 2010 May;48(5):15-8.
    • Sampson EL, Candy B, Jones L. Enteral tube feeding for older people with advanced dementia. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2009 Apr 15;(2):CD007209.
    • Gillick MR, Volandes AE. The standard of caring: why do we still use feeding tubes in patients with advanced dementia? J Am Med Dir Assoc. 2008 Jun;9(5):364-7.
    • Ganzini L. Artificial nutrition and hydration at the end of life: ethics and evidence. Palliat Support Care. 2006 Jun;4(2):135-43.
    • Li I. Feeding tubes in patients with severe dementia. Am Fam Physician. 2002 Apr 15;65(8):1605-11.
    • Finucane TE, Christmas C, Travis K. Tube feeding in patients with advanced dementia: a review of the evidence. JAMA. 1999 Oct 13;282(14):1365-70.
    • Mitchell SL, Kiely DK, Lipsitz LA. The risk factors and impact on survival of feeding tube placement in nursing home residents with severe cognitive impairment. Arch Intern Med. 1997 Feb 10;157(3):327-32.

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