Background: Aspiration of infected oropharyngeal content is the main cause of aspiration pneumonia. This complication, mainly related to gram-negative bacteria, threatens percutaneous enterogastric tube as well as nasogastric tube (NGT) fed patients. The objective of this study was to examine the oral microbiota of tuboenterally fed patients and compare it with that of orally fed counterparts.
Methods: Patients were recruited for this study from six nursing and skilled nursing facilities with an overall number of 845 beds. Enrolled were 215 patients: Group 1 consisted of 78 patients on NGT feeding, Group 2 consisted of 57 patients on percutaneous enterogastric tube feeding, and Group 3 consisted of 80 patients fed orally who were from the same facilities. Cultures were performed by sampling the oropharynx of each subject in order to identify gram-negative bacteria and Staphylococcus aureus.
Results: A high prevalence of potentially pathogenic isolations was found in tuboenterally fed patients: 81% in Group 1 and 51% in Group 2, as compared with only 17.5% in Group 3 (p <.0001). Pseudomonas aeruginosa was cultured from 31% of the subjects in Group 1 and 10% of Group 2, but in none of Group 3 (p <.001). Klebsiella and Proteus were isolated mainly from the NGT fed patients (p <.003). No correlation was found between the time duration on tube feeding or the presence of residual dentition and pathogenic microbiota.
Conclusion: This study shows that tuboenteral feeding in elderly patients is associated with pathogenic colonization of the oropharynx. These findings are related to the risk of aspiration pneumonia and are compelling for the reevaluation of current oral cleansing procedures.