Background: Refeeding syndrome is a potentially fatal shift of fluids and electrolytes that may occur after reintroducing nutrition in a malnourished patient. Its incidence in internal medicine patients is not known. We aimed at determining the incidence in a heterogeneous group of patients acutely admitted to a department of internalmedicine.
Methods: All patients acutely admitted to the department of internal medicine of a teaching community hospital in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, between 22 February 2011 and 29 April 2011, were included. We applied the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) criteria for determining people at risk of refeeding syndrome and took hypophosphataemia as the main indicator for the presence of this syndrome.
Results: Of 178 patients included in the study, 97 (54%) were considered to be at risk of developing refeeding syndrome and 14 patients actually developed the syndrome (14% of patients at risk and 8% of study population). Patients with a malignancy or previous malignancy were at increased risk of developing refeeding syndrome (p < 0.05). Measurement of muscle strength over time was not associated with the occurrence of refeeding syndrome. The Short Nutritional Assessment Questionnaire score had a positive and negative predictive value of 13% and 95% respectively.
Conclusion: The incidence of refeeding syndrome was relatively high in patients acutely admitted to the department of internal medicine. Oncology patients are at increased risk of developing refeeding syndrome. When taking the occurrence of hypophosphataemia as a hallmark, no other single clinical or composite parameter could be identified that accurately predicts the development of refeeding syndrome.