Objectives: To determine the frequency and clinical predictors of aspiration within 5 days of acute stroke.
Design: Case series.
Setting: Tertiary care center.
Patients: Consecutive stroke patients (n = 55) with new neurologic deficit evaluated within 5 days of acute stroke.
Main outcome measures: Comparison of features identified on clinical swallowing and oromotor examinations and occurrence of aspiration (silent or overt) evident on videofluoroscopic swallow study (VSS).
Results: Aspiration occurred in 21 of 55 patients (38%). Whereas 7 of 21 patients (33%) aspirated overtly, 14 (67%) aspirated silently on VSS. Chi-square analyses revealed that dysphonia, dysarthria, abnormal gag reflex, abnormal volitional cough, cough after swallow, and voice change after swallow were significantly related to aspiration and were predictors of the subset of patients with silent aspiration. Logistic regression revealed that abnormal volitional cough and cough with swallow, in conjunction, predicted aspiration with 78% accuracy.
Conclusions: Silent aspiration appears to be a significant problem in acute stroke patients because silent aspiration occurred in two thirds of the patients who aspirated. The prediction of patients at risk for aspiration was significantly improved by the presence of concurrent findings of abnormal volitional cough and cough with swallow on clinical examination.