Get access

Malnutrition in Austrian hospital patients. Prevalence, risk factors, nursing interventions, and quality indicators: a descriptive multicentre study


Correspondence to A. Tannen:




This study reports the prevalence of malnutrition (according to body mass index and malnutrition universal screening tool) and the prevalence of health problems that may influence the development of malnutrition in Austrian hospitals. Screening routines and nutrition-related interventions on patient level and quality indicators on ward and facility levels were also investigated.


Malnutrition is an undesirable condition of care-dependent patients and can increase morbidity and mortality of those affected; it is therefore required to screen every patient to detect people at risk and treat them early. Only little data are available on the prevalence of the underlying causes and on the extent of nutrition-related interventions.


A cross-sectional multicentre study in 11 Austrian hospitals (= 2,283) in 2009.


Every patient was assessed by two trained nurses. Data were collected using a standardized validated questionnaire.


The prevalence of malnutrition according to the malnutrition universal screening tool was 15·7% (high risk) and 8·3% (middle risk). A body mass index <20·0 kg/m² was found in 12·0% (6% <18·5 kg/m²). Main problems were loss of appetite (56·6%), acute disease (38·6%), and nausea (22·3%). About 70% of the patients were screened on admission. Patients at risk were referred to a nutritional expert (7–28·7%), received protein-energy-enriched diets (2·5–15·1%) or snacks (5·1–17·4%). A dietician was available in all hospitals; 8/11 hospitals had fixed criteria for assessing malnutrition; guideline policy varied among the facilities.


The majority of wards acted in compliance with clinical guidelines; nevertheless, there are still some facilities that do not screen and weigh their patients in a standardized manner and do not treat high-risk patients adequately.

Get access to the full text of this article