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Validated swallowing and nutrition guidelines for patients with head and neck cancer: Identification of high-risk patients for proactive gastrostomy


  • This work was presented at the Clinical Oncological Society of Australia 36th Annual Scientific Meeting 2009, Gold Coast, Australia.

Nutrition and Dietetics, Level 2, James Mayne Building, Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital, Butterfield St, Herston, Brisbane, Queensland 4029, Australia. E-mail:



The “Swallowing and Nutrition Guidelines for Patients with Head and Neck Cancer” were developed to guide early identification and management of dysphagia and nutritional risk before, during, and after cancer treatment. The purpose of this study was to validate these guidelines.


Patients attending a Combined Head and Neck Clinic at a major tertiary hospital in 2007 to 2008 were assessed using the guidelines, with high-risk category patients recommended for proactive gastrostomy. Data were collected on guideline adherence, gastrostomy tube insertion, and weight. Sensitivity, specificity, and positive predictive value were calculated for validation.


Proactive gastrostomy tubes were inserted in 173 of 501 patients (25%). Overall guideline adherence was 87%. High-risk category adherence was 75%. Validation outcomes were sensitivity 54%, specificity 93%, and positive predictive value 82%.


The risk categories in the guidelines are valid to assist early identification of swallowing and nutritional risk and guide decision-making on proactive gastrostomy tube insertion. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Head Neck 35: 1385–1391, 2013