School of Medicine Publications and Presentations

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Hospital-acquired aspiration pneumonia remains a rare but potentially devastating problem. The best means by which to prevent aspiration in a cancer hospital population has not been evaluated. The aim of this study was to evaluate the impact of dysphagia screening on aspiration pneumonia rates in an acute care oncology hospital.


A prospective single-institution quality-improvement dysphagia screening protocol at a comprehensive cancer center. Effect of dysphagia screening implemented in 2016 on hospital acquired aspiration pneumonia rates coded “aspiration pneumonitis due to food/vomitus” were compared with rates from 2014-15, prior to implementation. Screening compliance, screening outcomes, patient demographics, and medical data were reviewed as part of a post hoc analysis.


Of 12,392 admissions in 2014-16, 97 patients developed aspiration pneumonia during their hospitalization. No significant change in aspiration pneumonia rate was seen during the dysphagia screening year when compared to prior years (baseline- 7.36 and screening year- 8.78 per 1000 discharges p=0.33). Sixty-eight of the cases (66%) were associated with emesis/gastrointestinal obstruction or perioperative aspiration and only 15 (15%) with oropharyngeal dysphagia. Multivariate analysis found that patients admitted to GI surgery had an aspiration risk equivalent to patients admitted to head and neck, thoracic and pulmonary services (OR 0.65, p= 0.2).


Nursing-initiated dysphagia screening did not decrease aspiration pneumonia rates. The causes of aspiration-associated pneumonia were heterogeneous. Aspiration of intestinal contents is a more common source of hospital-acquired pneumonia than oropharyngeal dysphagia.


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Publication Title

Otolaryngology--head and neck surgery : official journal of American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery



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Mentor/PI Department




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