Management of communication and swallowing in intensive care: the role of the speech pathologist

AACN Adv Crit Care. 2008 Oct-Dec;19(4):433-43. doi: 10.1097/01.AACN.0000340724.80280.31.


Patients in adult, pediatric, and neonatal intensive care settings often require the services of a speech-language pathologist. It is common practice to consult a speech pathologist to determine whether a patient is ready to initiate oral intake or help a patient with an artificial airway communicate. Assessments for dysphagia are initially clinical and conducted at bedside. Results from the clinical evaluation help determine if and when an instrumental examination should be completed. Patients who are tracheostomized, or had been, and those who were intubated for a prolonged period are at risk for aspiration. Speaking valves allow patients to communicate orally. Some studies have shown that speaking valves might also reduce the risk of aspiration with oral intake. Collaboration between speech-language pathologists and critical care nurses is a vital component for ensuring patient safety and success in both communication and eating.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Communication*
  • Deglutition*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Intensive Care Units*
  • Professional Role*
  • Speech Therapy*
  • Tracheostomy