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Dysphagia. 2001 Winter;16(1):7-18.

Screening for dysphagia and aspiration in acute stroke: a systematic review.

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Mayday Healthcare, Faculty of Health and Social Care Sciences, Kingston University and St. George's Hospital Medical School, Kingston upon Thames, Surrey, England.


Stroke is a common problem, producing a variety of neurological problems that affect eating. Dysphagia is a particular concern because of its potential for airway obstruction, malnutrition, and aspiration pneumonia. With chest infection reported in up to 32% of stroke patients, this is a major clinical issue. The following research questions are raised: (1) What are the incidence and outcomes of dysphagia and aspiration in acute stroke? (2) What screening interventions are available to detect dysphagia in patients with acute stroke and what effect have they on patient outcomes? A systematic review was carried out using methods and quality criteria of the NHS Centre for Reviews and Dissemination (1996), focusing on studies of adults with acute stroke. Data were extracted, collated, and presented descriptively. Two hundred forty-eight articles were retrieved with 26 meeting inclusion and quality criteria. Clinical dysphagia is common, associated with a range of deleterious outcomes and clearly linked to development of chest infection. Interpretation of aspiration on videofluoroscopy is not as straightforward but probably also confers additional risk. Further work is required on the relationship between aspiration and pneumonia, and pneumonia prevention. This will include exploration of the effects of screening, and the further development and validation of screening methods. While studies indicate current "best practice," in this important area of patient care further work is urgently required.

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