Original Research

Poor consistency in evaluating South African adults with neurogenic dysphagia

Mckinley Andrews, Mershen Pillay
South African Journal of Communication Disorders | Vol 64, No 1 | a158 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajcd.v64i1.158 | © 2017 Mckinley Andrews, Mershen Pillay | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 25 March 2016 | Published: 23 January 2017

About the author(s)

Mckinley Andrews, Discipline of Speech-Language Pathology, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
Mershen Pillay, Discipline of Speech-Language Pathology, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa


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Abstract

Background: Speech-language therapists are specifically trained in clinically evaluating swallowing in adults with acute stroke. Incidence of dysphagia following acute stroke is high in South Africa, and health implications can be fatal, making optimal management of this patient population crucial. However, despite training and guidelines for best practice in clinically evaluating swallowing in adults with acute stroke, there are low levels of consistency in these practice patterns.

Objective: The aim was to explore the clinical practice activities of speech-language therapists in the clinical evaluation of swallowing in adults with acute stroke. Practice activities reviewed included the use and consistency of clinical components and resources utilised. Clinical components were the individual elements evaluated in the clinical evaluation of swallowing (e.g. lip seal, vocal quality, etc.)

Methods: The questionnaire used in the study was replicated and adapted from a study increasing content- and criterion-related validity. A narrative literature review determined what practice patterns existed in the clinical evaluation of swallowing in adults. A pilot study was conducted to increase validity and reliability. Purposive sampling was used by sending a self-administered, electronic questionnaire to members of the South African Speech-Language-Hearing Association. Thirty-eight participants took part in the study. Descriptive statistics were used to analyse the data and the small qualitative component was subjected to textual analysis.

Results: There was high frequency of use of 41% of the clinical components in more than 90% of participants (n = 38). Less than 50% of participants frequently assessed sensory function and gag reflex and used pulse oximetry, cervical auscultation and indirect laryngoscopy. Approximately a third of participants showed high (30.8%), moderate (35.9%) and poor (33.3%) consistency of practice each. Nurses, food and liquids and medical consumables were used usually and always by more than 90% of participants.

Conclusion: Infrequent use of clinical components and high variability in clinical practice among speech-language therapists calls for uniform curricula in the clinical evaluation of swallowing at South African universities and for continued professional development post-graduation. Different contexts and patient symptoms contribute towards varied practice; however, there is still a need to improve consistency of practice for quality health care delivery. A research-based policy for the clinical swallowing evaluation for a resource-limited context is also needed.


Keywords

practice patterns; clinical swallow evaluation; adults with neurogenic dysphagia; stroke; speech-language therapy

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