Background: Post-extubation dysphagia (PED) is recognized as a common complication in the intensive care unit (ICU). Speech and language therapy (SLT) can potentially help improve PED; however, the impact of the timing of SLT initiation on persistent PED has not been well investigated. This study aimed to examine the timing of SLT initiation and its effect on patient outcomes after extubation in the ICU.
Methods: We conducted this multicenter, retrospective, cohort study, collecting data from eight ICUs in Japan from patients treated between 2017 and 2020. Patients aged ≥ 20 years with orotracheal intubation and mechanical ventilation for longer than 48 hours, and those who received SLT due to PED, defined as patients with modified water swallowing test scores of 3 or lower, were included. The primary outcome was dysphagia at hospital discharge, defined as functional oral intake scale score <5 or death after extubation. Secondary outcomes included dysphagia or death at the seventh, 14th, or 28th day after extubation, aspiration pneumonia, and in-hospital mortality. Associations between the timing of SLT initiation and outcomes were determined using multivariable logistic regression.
Results: Two hundred and seventy-two patients met the study inclusion criteria. Of them, 82 (30.1%) patients exhibited dysphagia or death at hospital discharge, and their time spans from extubation to SLT initiation was 1.0 days. The primary outcome revealed that every day of delay in SLT initiation post-extubation was associated with dysphagia or death at hospital discharge (adjusted odds ratio (AOR), 1.09; 95% CI, 1.02 to 1.18). Similarly, secondary outcomes showed associations between this per day delay in SLT initiation and dysphagia or death at the seventh day (AOR, 1.28; 95% CI, 1.05 to 1.55), 14th day (AOR, 1.34; 95% CI, 1.13 to 1.58), or 28th day (AOR, 1.21; 95% CI, 1.07 to 1.36) after extubation and occurrence of aspiration pneumonia (AOR, 1.09; 95% CI, 1.02 to 1.17), while per day delay in post-extubation SLT initiation did not affect in-hospital mortality (AOR, 1.04; 95% CI, 0.97 to 1.12).
Conclusions: Delayed initiation of SLT in PED patients was associated with persistent dysphagia or death. Early initiation of SLT may prevent this complication post-extubation.