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Hand-grip strength has been shown to be a reliable predictor of health outcomes. However, evidence supporting its use as an indicator of nutritional status is inconsistent. This study investigated its use in monitoring nutritional status in patients with head and neck cancer.
A prospective audit of patients treated for head and neck cancer was undertaken at four centres over a three-month period in 2009. Nutritional outcomes were collected at 3, 6 and 12 months, and the data were statistically analysed.
Data from 114 patients showed that mean weight, but not hand-grip strength, fell significantly at 3, 6 and 12 months post-treatment (p < 0.003 vs p < 0.126).
A fall in weight does not coincide with a drop in hand-grip strength in patients receiving treatment for head and neck cancer. Hand-grip strength may therefore not be of benefit in the nutritional assessment of these patients and should not be part of routine assessment.
Many patients treated for head and neck cancer require nutritional support, which is often delivered using a gastrostomy tube. It is difficult to predict which patients will retain their gastrostomy tube in the long term. This study aimed to identify the factors which affect the duration of gastrostomy tube retention.
In this retrospective study, 151 consecutive patients from one centre were audited. All patients had a mucosal tumour of the head and neck, and underwent gastrostomy tube insertion between 2003 and 2007.
There were near-complete data sets for 132 patients. The gastrostomy tube was retained in survivors (n = 66) for a mean of 21.3 months and in non-survivors (n = 66) for 11.9 months. Univariate analysis showed that co-morbidity was the only factor which significantly increased duration of gastrostomy tube retention in survivors (p = 0.041).
Co-morbidity alone was associated with a significant increase in gastrostomy tube retention. It is suggested that co-morbidity be included as a variable in future relevant research. Co-morbidity should also be considered when counselling patients about their long-term function following cancer treatment. Gastrostomy tube retention is likely to be affected by many factors, with few single variables having importance independently.
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