Supportive Care in Cancer

, Volume 28, Issue 1, pp 341–349 | Cite as

Nutritional parameters associated with hospital admissions in patients being treated for head and neck cancer

  • Amanda M. DuffyEmail author
  • Mark Halaki
  • Allan Spigelman
  • Venessa Chin
  • Richard M. Gallagher
  • Victoria M. Flood
Original Article



This study analysed nutritional parameters (baseline body mass index (BMI), weight changes and enteral nutrition (EN) use, and their association with hospital admissions during radiotherapy in patients with head and neck cancer (HNC)).


A retrospective review of patients diagnosed with HNC and treated with radiotherapy between October 2012 and April 2014 was conducted. Data on each subject’s diagnosis, age, sex, chemotherapy, previous surgery, EN use, weight changes, and BMI were examined for their association with hospital admissions during treatment.


Eighty-three patients were included, mean age (±standard deviation) = 61 (± 11 years). Thirty-four percent had self-reported weight loss at diagnosis, and mean BMI was 26.2 ± 5.3 kg/m2. Mean weight change during treatment was − 5.1 ± 6.2%. Ten patients used EN, with mean weight stabilisation during EN use (0.3 ± 5.1%). Higher presenting BMI, younger age, and definitive radiotherapy ± chemotherapy predicted greater weight loss (p < 0.05). Critical weight loss ≥ 5% was associated with a higher number of hospital admissions for nutrition reasons (n = 10) (p = 0.011) compared with those without critical weight loss (n = 2). EN use was associated with a higher number of nutrition-related admissions; however, it did not predict length of stay among those admitted.


Critical weight loss during radiotherapy was associated with unplanned nutrition-related hospital admissions. Higher BMI was associated with greater weight loss during radiotherapy, whilst EN use assisted in weight preservation. Further research around patient selection for nutritional interventions aimed at preventing critical weight loss and unplanned hospital admissions is needed.


BMI Weight loss Enteral nutrition Hospital admissions Head and neck 



The authors thank Dr. Ian Nivison-Smith for his assistance with statistical analysis.

Authors’ contribution

The authors’ contributions are as follows: AD was the principal investigator and contributed to the study design, conducted the data collection and analysis, interpretation of the findings and wrote the first draft of the manuscript. VF and MH contributed to the study design, data analysis, interpretation of the findings, and drafts of the manuscript. AS contributed to study support and design. RG and VC reviewed the medical treatment plans and contributed to the interpretation of findings.


This work was supported by funding from The Kinghorn Cancer Centre (TKCC) Trust Fund and had no role in the design, analysis or writing of this article.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors have no financial or personal conflicts of interest to declare. The authors have full control of all primary data and agree to allow the journal to review their data if requested.

All authors read and approved the final version of the manuscript. The authors have no financial or personal conflicts of interest to declare.

Supplementary material

520_2019_4826_MOESM1_ESM.docx (19 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 19 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Nutrition Services DepartmentSt Vincent’s HospitalSydneyAustralia
  2. 2.Faculty of Health SciencesThe University of SydneySydneyAustralia
  3. 3.St Vincent’s Hereditary Cancer ClinicThe Kinghorn Cancer CentreSydneyAustralia
  4. 4.St Vincent’s Clinical SchoolUNSWSydneyAustralia
  5. 5.Department of Medical OncologyThe Kinghorn Cancer CentreSydneyAustralia
  6. 6.Department of Otolaryngology- Head and Neck SurgerySt Vincent’s HospitalSydneyAustralia
  7. 7.The Garvan Institute of Medical ResearchSydneyAustralia
  8. 8.Allied Health Research Unit, Westmead HospitalWestern Sydney Local Health DistrictSydneyAustralia

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