Background: Cachexia is a condition characterized as a loss in body mass or metabolic dysfunction and is associated with several prevalent chronic health conditions including many cancers, COPD, HIV, and kidney disease, with between 10 and 50% of patients with these conditions having cachexia. Currently there is little research into cachexia and our objective is to characterize cachexia patients, their healthcare utilisation, and associated hospitalization costs. Given the increasing prevalence of chronic diseases, it is important to better understand cachexia so that the condition can be better diagnosed and managed.
Methods: We utilized one year (2009) of the Nationwide Inpatient Sample (NIS). The NIS represents all inpatient stays at a random 20% sample of all hospitals within the United States. We grouped cachexia individuals by primary or secondary discharge diagnosis and then compared those with cachexia to all others in terms of length of stay (LOS) and total cost. Finally we looked into factors predicting increased LOS using a negative binomial model.
Results: We estimated US prevalence for cachexia-related inpatient admissions at 161,898 cases. Cachexia patients were older, with an average age of 67.95 versus 48.10 years in their non-cachexia peers. Hospitalizations associated with cachexia had an increased LOS compared to non-cachexia patients (6 versus 3 days), with average costs per stay $4641.30 greater. Differences were seen in loss of function (LOF) with cachexia patients, mostly in the major LOF category (52.60%), whereas non-cachexia patients were spread between minor, moderate, and major LOF (36.28%, 36.11%, and 21.26%, respectively). Significant positive predictors of increased LOS among cachexia patients included urban hospital (IRR=1.21, non-teaching urban; IRR=1.23, teaching urban), having either major (IRR=1.41) or extreme (IRR=2.64) LOF, and having a primary diagnosis of pneumonia (IRR=1.15).
Conclusion: We have characterized cachexia and seen it associated with increased length of stay, increased cost, and more severe loss of function in patients compared to those without cachexia.