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Can J Surg. 2009 Apr;52(2):119-24.

Incidence and impact of dysphagia in patients receiving prolonged endotracheal intubation after cardiac surgery.

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Department of Speech-Language Pathology, Toronto General Hospital, Toronto, Ont.



Cardiac surgery is frequently associated with prolonged endotracheal intubation. Because oral feeding is an important component of patient recovery after high-risk surgery, we sought to examine the contribution of dysphagia in the recuperation process after prolonged endotracheal intubation.


All 254 adult patients who survived cardiac surgery between 2001 and 2004 at the Toronto General Hospital and in whom endotracheal intubation lasted for 48 hours or longer were eligible for our retrospective review. We used multivariate regression analysis and parametric modelling to identify patient-specific characteristics associated with postextubation dysphagia and the subsequent resumption of normal oral feeding.


Dysphagia was diagnosed in 130 (51%) patients. Incremental factors associated with an increased risk for postextubation dysphagia included duration of endotracheal intubation (p < 0.001), the occurrence of a perioperative cerebrovascular event (p = 0.014) and the presence of perioperative sepsis (p = 0.016). Neither preoperative patient risks nor index procedural characteristics were influential factors. The occurrence of dysphagia (p < 0.001) and the duration of endotracheal intubation (p < 0.001) were the only independent factors associated with a delayed return to normal oral feeding. In contrast, several independent factors were associated with a delay to hospital discharge, including the presence of dysphagia (p < 0.001), occurrence of perioperative stroke (p < 0.001), duration of endotracheal intubation (p < 0.001) and number of endotracheal intubation events (p < 0.006).


Dysphagia is more common in patients with prolonged endotracheal intubation after cardiac surgery than has previously been reported. The duration of postoperative endotracheal intubation is a strong predictor of subsequent dysphagia that both prolongs the return to normal oral feeding and delays subsequent hospital discharge. Patient-or procedure-specific factors are not good predictors. To accelerate discharge of high-risk patients, aggressive nutritional supplementation should pre-empt extubation and swallowing surveillance should follow.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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