Introduction: Dysphagia is a common problem in acute hemorrhagic stroke (AHS) patients, predisposing them to pneumonia and leading to poor outcomes. The Joint Commission mandated that dysphagia screening be performed at hospital presentation, which for most patients with AHS is the Emergency Department (ED). No evidence exists to demonstrate if the use of an ED dysphagia screen is associated with lower rates of pneumonia.
Hypothesis: We assessed the hypothesis that the use of our ED dysphagia screen would not be associated with lower rates of pneumonia in AHS patients.
Methods: We performed a pre-post cohort study evaluating the rates of pneumonia in AHS patients presenting to our ED before and after instituting dysphagia screening in 2010. Our pre group were AHS patients presenting from 2005-2009 and our post group from 2011-2015. The presence of pneumonia was pre-defined as new pulmonary infiltrate treated with antibiotics. We collected demographic and clinical data including rates of dysphagia and stroke severity. Data are presented as frequencies and medians with interquartile ranges (IQR) where appropriate. Rates of pneumonia were compared using the t-test.
Results: We evaluated 469 pre screen and 462 post screen AHS patients. Both groups were 53% male. The rates of parenchymal bleed in the pre and post groups were 78% and 82%, respectively, with the remainder comprising subarachnoid hemorrhages or combination bleeds. Mean ICH scores were similar, pre 2.0 (SD 1.5) post 1.7 (SD 1.4). Dysphagia was present in 65% of the pre group and 63% of the post group. Incidence of pneumonia in the post group (13%) was significantly lower than the pre group (19%, P<0.001).
Conclusion: The use of an ED dysphagia screen is associated with a lower rate of pneumonia in AHS patients. This study was not designed to prove causation. Other factors not measured may have contributed to the reduction in rates of pneumonia. With the very high rates of dysphagia seen in this population, early dysphagia screening at ED presentation seems appropriate.