Comparative study of 2 oral care protocols in intensive care units

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The quality of oral care is important in limiting the emergence of ventilator-associated pneumonia (VAP) in intubated patients. Our main objective was to measure the quality improvement in oral care following the implementation of a new oral care protocol. We also monitored VAP rates.


This was a cohort study of patients in 5 adult ICUs covering different specialties. During period 1, caregivers used a foam stick for oral care and during period 2 a stick and tooth brushing with aspiration. Oral chlorhexidine was used during both periods. The caregivers rated improvement in oral health on the basis of 4 criteria (tongue, mucous membranes, gingivae, and teeth). Caregiver satisfaction was also assessed. The incidence of VAP was monitored.


A total of 2,030 intubated patients admitted to intensive care units benefited from oral care. The patient populations during the 2 periods were similar with regard to demographic data and VAP potential risk factors. Oral health was significantly better from the third day of oral care in period 2 onward (period 1, 6.4 ± 2.1; period 2, 5.6 ± 1.8; P = .043). Caregivers found the period 2 protocol easier to implement and more effective. VAP rates decreased significantly between the 2 periods (period 1, 12.8%; period 2, 8.5%; P = .002).


Our study showed that the implementation of a simple strategy improved the quality of oral care of patients in intensive care units, and decreased VAP rates.

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