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Semin Respir Crit Care Med. 2002 Jun;23(3):248-60.

Respiratory complications of stroke.

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Section of Pulmonary and Critical Care, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut 06520, USA.


Stroke is the third leading cause of death in the United States. Stroke survivors often experience medical complications and long-term disability. Disturbances in respiratory system function and complications affecting the respiratory system are common after stroke. The nature of these disorders depends on the severity and site of neurological injury. Alterations in breathing control, respiratory mechanics, and breathing pattern are common and may lead to gas exchange abnormalities or the need for mechanical ventilation. Stroke can lead to sleep disordered breathing such as central or obstructive sleep apnea. Sleep disordered breathing may also play a role in the pathogenesis of cerebral infarction. Venous thromboembolism, swallowing abnormalities, aspiration, and pneumonia are among the most common respiratory complications of stroke. Neurogenic pulmonary edema occurs less often. Close observation of the stroke patient for these potential disturbances, and implementation of prophylactic measures can prevent significant morbidity and mortality.


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