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Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 1999 Feb;80(2):150-4.

Assessing the laryngeal cough reflex and the risk of developing pneumonia after stroke.

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Brevard Rehabilitation Medicine, Melbourne, FL, USA.



To determine the effectiveness of a new reflex cough test, using nebulized tartaric acid, in the evaluation of the laryngeal cough reflex and the development of aspiration pneumonia.


In this two-phase study, the cough test assessed the cough reflex in 161 stroke subjects. Phase 1 was a double-blinded prospective study of 40 subjects scheduled to have both modified barium swallow and the reflex cough test. Phase 1 subjects with an abnormal cough test showed an increased pneumonia incidence, and therefore, phase 2 was not blinded. In phase 2, 121 subjects were evaluated using the cough test; 38 received a modified barium swallow. Test results were compared using the Fisher exact test.


A total of 131 subjects from both phases had a normal reflex cough test; none developed pneumonia (p < .01). Thirty subjects from both phases had abnormal reflex cough test results; 5 developed pneumonia. Modified barium swallow findings did not reliably indicate the risk for developing pneumonia. Specificity of a normal reflex cough test was 100%.


The reflex cough test reliably evaluated the laryngeal cough reflex and the associated risk of developing aspiration pneumonia in stroke patients. Testing the laryngeal cough reflex may significantly reduce morbidity, mortality, and costs in stroke patients.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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