Objective: To determine the incidence of dysphagia and associated pulmonary compromise in stroke patients through a systematic review of the published literature.
Methods: Databases were searched (1966 through May 2005) using terms "cerebrovascular disorders," "deglutition disorders," and limited to "humans" for original articles addressing the frequency of dysphagia or pneumonia. Data sources included Medline, Embase, Pascal, relevant Internet addresses, and extensive hand searching of bibliographies of identified articles. Selected articles were reviewed for quality, diagnostic methods, and patient characteristics. Comparisons were made of reported dysphagia and pneumonia frequencies. The relative risks (RRs) of developing pneumonia were calculated in patients with dysphagia and confirmed aspiration.
Results: Of the 277 sources identified, 104 were original, peer-reviewed articles that focused on adult stroke patients with dysphagia. Of these, 24 articles met inclusion criteria and were evaluated. The reported incidence of dysphagia was lowest using cursory screening techniques (37% to 45%), higher using clinical testing (51% to 55%), and highest using instrumental testing (64% to 78%). Dysphagia tends to be lower after hemispheric stroke and remains prominent in the rehabilitation brain stem stroke. There is increased risk for pneumonia in patients with dysphagia (RR, 3.17; 95% CI, 2.07, 4.87) and an even greater risk in patients with aspiration (RR, 11.56; 95% CI, 3.36, 39.77).
Conclusions: The high incidence for dysphagia and pneumonia is a consistent finding with stroke patients. The pneumonia risk is greatest in stroke patients with aspiration. These findings will be valuable in the design of future dysphagia research.