Background: Mechanical ventilation is commonly used during the acute management of cervical spinal cord injury, and is required on an ongoing basis in the majority of patients with injuries at or above C3. However, to date there have been limited systematic investigations of the options available to improve speech while ventilator-assisted post-cervical spinal cord injury.
Aims: To provide preliminary evidence of any benefits gained through the addition of positive end expiratory pressure (PEEP) and/or a tracheostomy speech valve to the condition of leak speech.
Methods & procedures: Speech production in the three conditions was compared in two ventilator-assisted participants using a series of instrumental and perceptual speech measures.
Outcomes & results: The addition of PEEP or the use of a speech valve resulted in speech that was superior to leak speech for both participants; however, individual variation was present.
Conclusions & implications: Leak speech alone or with the addition of PEEP or a tracheostomy speech valve can facilitate functional communication for the ventilated patient, though PEEP and valve speech were found to be superior in the current study. These findings will be of assistance for clinicians counselling the growing population of patients who may require tracheostomy positive pressure ventilation long-term regarding communication options.