Hospitals with formal dysphagia screening protocols for people with ischemic stroke have lower rates of pneumonia than hospitals that don't, according to a new study. Five professional practice guidelines recommend dysphagia screening before a patient eats or drinks because dysphagia leading to aspiration is a common cause of poststroke pneumonia.
Researchers reviewed the records of 2,532 patients treated for ischemic stroke between 2001 and 2003 at 15 medical centers. Six of the centers had a formal dysphagia screening protocol. These sites had a 78% screening adherence rate, compared with a 57% rate at centers that didn't have formal protocols. In addition, pneumonia rates were significantly lower at centers with formal protocols (2.4% versus 5.4%).
Researchers recommend screening for all stroke patients, regardless of stroke severity.