Feeding tube use cut by 50% in nursing home residents with dementia, study finds

The proportion of long-term care residents who had advanced dementia and received feeding tubes dropped by 50% between 2000 and 2014, according to a new analysis.

Researchers at Hebrew SeniorLife Institute for Aging Research, Brown University's Center for Gerontology and Health Care Research, and University of Washington's Cambia Palliative Care Center of Excellence said the dramatic decline reflected expert opinion discouraging the use of the tubes.

Over the past two decades, “research has failed to demonstrate the benefits of tube feeding in patients with advanced dementia,” they wrote.

The researchers evaluated more than 71,000 residents with advanced dementia in U.S. nursing homes and found almost 12% had tubes in 2000. That dropped to 5.7% by 2014.

The investigators also analyzed racial discrepancies. The insertion rate in white patients dropped from more than 8.5% to slightly over 3%. Among black patients, the rate dropped by more than half, to 17.5%.

Results appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association.