HealthDay News — Use of feeding tubes among nursing home patients with advanced dementia is declining, according to a research letter published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The study included national data on residents of US nursing homes. The researchers looked at the period between 2000 and 2014, and identified 71,251 residents with advanced dementia who were unable to feed themselves. The average age was 84.

The investigators found that between 2000 and 2014, the proportion of residents in US nursing homes with advanced dementia and feeding tubes declined from 11.7 to 5.7%. The rate of feeding tube use declined from 8.6 to 3.1% among whites. Among black patients with advanced dementia, the use of feeding tubes declined from 37.5 to 17.5%.

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“The decline roughly parallels the emergence of research, and subsequent expert opinion and recommendations by national organizations, discouraging this practice,” study leader Susan Mitchell, MD, MPH, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and a senior scientist at Hebrew Senior Life Institute for Aging Research in Boston, told HealthDay.

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Mitchell SL, Mor V, Gozalo PL, Servadio JL, Teno JM. Tube Feeding in US Nursing Home Residents With Advanced Dementia, 2000-2014. JAMA. 2016;316(7):769-770. doi:10.1001/jama.2016.9374.