Swallowing disorders post orotracheal intubation in the elderly
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The purpose of this study was to assess the prevalence and recovery time of swallowing dysfunction after prolonged endotracheal intubation in critically ill elderly patients compared to a younger cohort.
This was a prospective, interventional, clinical study set in a medical intensive care unit in a university-affiliated hospital.
The study involved 42 consecutive elderly patients (≥65 years old) and 42 controls (<65 years) matched for severity of illness requiring endotracheal intubation for more than 48 h.
A fiberoptic endoscopic evaluation of swallowing (FEES) was performed within 48 h post-extubation and on days 5, 9, and 14 for those with evidence of aspiration.
Swallowing dysfunction was assessed by the detection of test material below the true vocal cords. Aspiration was documented in 52% of the elderly and 36% of the control group (P=0.2). No significant difference in the co-morbidity index and the length of mechanical ventilation was found between aspirators and non-aspirators. None of the control group had swallowing deficits after 2 weeks, while 13% of the elderly participants showed persistent impairment in the swallowing reflex. By multivariate analysis, the preadmission functional status was the only determinant of a slowly resolving swallowing deficit (hazard ratio 1.68; 95% confidence interval 1.26–3.97). No post-extubation aspiration pneumonia was identified in either group.
Critically ill elderly patients exhibit delayed resolution of swallowing impairment post extubation. FEES should be considered for those with impaired preadmission functional status.
KeywordsElderly Swallowing Endotracheal intubation Aspiration Pneumonia
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