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YY Sitoh, A Lee, SY Phua, PK Lieu, SP Chan
Correspondence: Dr Yih Yiow Sitoh, firstname.lastname@example.org
Aim Dysphagia is common in the elderly and is associated with increased morbidity and mortality. We undertook a prospective study to determine the usefulness of a simple bedside swallowing test in terms of (1) detecting previously undiagnosed dysphagia, (2) agreement of the doctor's assessment with that of the speech therapist, (3) impact on subsequent feeding modality, (4) predicting risk of subsequent pneumonia.
Method Patients in an acute geriatric ward who had no contra-indications to oral feeding were subjected to a bedside swallowing assessment by a geriatrician within 24 hours of admission. All patients found to be dysphagic were subsequently re-assessed by a speech therapist within 48 hours. In addition, every fifth patient deemed to have normal swallowing by the doctor was assessed by the speech therapist.
Results Sixty-five patients were studied. The doctor's assessment was in very good agreement with the assessment of the speech therapist (kappa = 0.87). Patients found to have dysphagia using the doctor's assessment protocol had an increased risk of developing pneumonia during their hospitalization (relative risk R.R.: 9.9 confidence interval C.I.: 1.2-81.2). Cough on swallowing and delayed swallowing were both found to be associated with an increased risk of developing pneumonia during the period of hospitalization (R.R.: 4.2, C.I.: 1.2-14.4; R.R.: 5.3, C.I.: 1.1-26.3 respectively).
Conclusion A simple bedside swallowing test can be used as an effective screening tool in detecting hitherto undiagnosed dysphagia. The validity of this tool in the diagnosis of aspiration requires further investigation.
Keywords: dysphagia, bedside swallowing assessment, screening tool, geriatrics
Singapore Med J 2000; 41(8): 376-381