Managing dysphagia in trachesotomized patients: where are we now?

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Abstract

Purpose of review

Tracheostomized patients are medically complex and vulnerable. International attention is now focused on improving the safety and quality of their care. This review summarizes recent evidence in hot-topic areas pertinent to speech and language therapy (SLT) intervention for dysphagia management in tracheostomized patients.

Recent findings

The management of tracheostomized patients requires a truly multidisciplinary team (MDT) approach. Without this, patients remain tracheostomized and hospitalized for longer and have slower access to MDT members. Patterns of SLT intervention are variable across the United Kingdom, and further work to achieve consensus on best practice is required. Instrumental evaluation of swallowing provides vital information and can facilitate well tolerated oral feeding even prior to cuff deflation. A systematic review suggests that sensitivity of blue-dye testing is poor, but studies are methodologically flawed. The need for tracheostomy-specific quality of life measures is being addressed by the development of a questionnaire.

Summary

In this review, the main research themes relevant to speech and language therapists (SLTs) working with tracheostomized patients are discussed. This patient group poses significant challenges to robust study design. However, recent advances in uniting MDT members globally to improve standards of care are encouraging.

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