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Keywords:

  • PEG tube;
  • dementia;
  • time trends;
  • end-of-life care

Objectives: Percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy (PEG) tube placement is a widely used method for long-term enteral feeding of demented patients unable to take sufficient food by mouth. National time trends in PEG tube use over the last decade have not been previously reported. The objective of this study was to determine whether use of PEG tubes for patients with dementia has changed over time and by race.

Design: Retrospective cohort study.

Setting: All Veterans Affairs hospitals.

Participants: Using an administrative database of the Veterans Health Administration, all veterans with dementia and all veterans who received a PEG tube were identified between fiscal years 1990–2001.

Measurements: Proportion of PEG tube placement for dementia patients over time and by race.

Results: Four hundred thirteen thousand six hundred twenty-seven dementia patients aged 60 and older were identified, of whom 6,464 (1.6%) received a PEG tube. Use of PEG tubes for dementia patients increased during the first half of the decade but subsequently decreased almost to baseline after peaking in 1996 (1990: 1.2%, 1996: 1.8%, 2001: 1.3%). Time trends in the use of PEG tube feeding for dementia patients varied by race. Specifically, the relative risk for PEG tube placement in African-American dementia patients increased from 1.65 (95% confidence interval (CI)=1.25–2.17, FY 1990) to 1.97 (95% CI=1.62–2.4, FY 2001).

Conclusion: Although the overall use of PEG tube feeding for dementia patients decreased over time, rates in use and changes in use over time varied significantly by race. Reasons for the differential use of this procedure should be explored.