Background: Functional gastrointestinal symptoms are frequently found in elderly dementia patients. In such a case, we attempt treatment by the administration of antidepressants or second-generation antipsychotics. However, these medications have a risk of side-effects. In the present study, we carried out oral administration of Rikkunshi-to to elderly dementia patients with appetite loss, and examined its effects on food intake.
Methods: Six elderly dementia patients were recruited from inpatients. They showed appetite loss, but no organic abnormalities of the gastrointestinal organs. These patients were given Rikkunshi-to, at 7.5 g per day, t.i.d. for 4 weeks. We examined the food intake, weight, total protein, albumin and potassium in plasma before administration and for 4 weeks after administration. In statistical analyses, the percentage of food consumed for 4 weeks was analyzed by anova. We also examined the side-effects of Rikkunshi-to.
Results: In patient 3, we stopped investigation after 3 weeks because of the development of cholecystitis. The values of 4 weeks in patient 3 were calculated as the mean values of 4 weeks in the other five patients. anova and Tukey's multiple comparison showed a marginally significant difference in weight between before Rikkunshi-to was given and 4 weeks after. In change of food intake, there were no significant differences between before Rikkunshi-to was given and 1 day after, 1 day and 2 days after, 2 days and 3 days after, 3 days and 1 week after, and 1 week and 2 weeks after; however, there were significant increases in food intake between other times. With regard to the side-effects, mild lower limb oedema appeared in the two patients.
Conclusion: In the present study, we showed the effect of Rikkunshi-to in improving appetite loss in elderly dementia patients. The present study suggests that Rikkunshi-to might be useful in improving functional appetite loss in elderly dementia patients, because there are no serious side-effects.