Original Research

Implementing oral care to reduce aspiration pneumonia amongst patients with dysphagia in a South African setting

Jaishika Seedat, Claire Penn
South African Journal of Communication Disorders | Vol 63, No 1 | a102 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajcd.v63i1.102 | © 2016 Jaishika Seedat, Claire Penn | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 28 August 2014 | Published: 16 February 2016

About the author(s)

Jaishika Seedat, Department of Speech Pathology and Audiology, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa, South Africa
Claire Penn, Department of Speech Pathology and Audiology, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa


Oral care is a crucial routine for patients with dysphagia that, when completed routinely, can prevent the development of aspiration pneumonia. There is no standardised protocol for oral care within government hospitals in South Africa. This study aimed to investigate the outcome of an oral care protocol. Participants were patients with oropharyngeal dysphagia, with either stroke or traumatic brain injury as the underlying medical pathology, and nurses. All participants were recruited from one tertiary level government hospital in Gauteng, South Africa. 139 nurses participated in the study and received training on the oral care protocol. There were two groups of participants with oropharyngeal dysphagia. Group one (study group, n = 23) was recruited by consecutive sampling, received regular oral care and were not restricted from drinking water; however, all other liquids were restricted. Group two (comparison group, n = 23) was recruited via a retrospective record review, received inconsistent oral care and were placed on thickened liquids or liquid restricted diets. Results showed that a regimen of regular oral care and free water provision when combined with dysphagia intervention did prevent aspiration pneumonia in patients with oropharyngeal dysphagia. The article highlights two key findings: that regular and routine oral care is manageable within an acute government hospital context and a strict routine of oral care can reduce aspiration pneumonia in patients with oropharyngeal dysphagia. An implication from these findings is confirmation that teamwork in acute care settings in developing contexts must be prioritised to improve dysphagia management and patient prognosis.


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