Clinical Progression and Outcome of Dysphagia Following Thermal Burn Injury: A Prospective Cohort Study.

J Burn Care Res. 2012 Jan 2. [Epub ahead of print]


The objectives of this study were 1) to establish clinical profiles of dysphagic and nondysphagic individuals following thermal burn injury and 2) to provide a clinical profile of the progression and outcome of dysphagia resolution by hospital discharge for a dysphagic cohort. A total of 438 consecutively admitted patients with thermal burns were included. All patients underwent a clinical swallowing examination. Medical parameters regarding burn presentation and its treatment and speech-language pathology specific variables from admission to discharge were collected for each participant. Dysphagia was identified in 49 patients via clinical assessment, and their course of recovery was followed up until the point of dysphagia resolution or discharge. No significant difference was observed between the dysphagic and nondysphagic groups in age, gender, and injury etiology. However, the dysphagic cohort was significantly different from the nondysphagic group in all variables pertaining to injury presentation and medical management. Individuals with dysphagia took significantly longer to start, and maintain, oral intake and required nonoral supplementation for three and a half times longer than those who were nondysphagic. Length of speech-language pathology intervention averaged 1 month for the dysphagics and increased with dysphagia severity. Return to normal fluid consistencies occurred in >75% of dysphagic individuals by week 7 postinjury, although resumption of normal diet textures was more protracted, with 75% resuming normal oral intake by week 9. Dysphagia has resolved in 50% of the cohort by week 6, and by hospital discharge, 85% of the dysphagic individuals had resumed normal oral intake of thin fluids and a general diet. This is the first large prospective cohort study to establish clinical profiles of dysphagic and nondysphagic cohorts and document the nature of dysphagia and patterns of recovery within the thermal burn population. These current data will assist the allocation and planning of speech-language pathology services and provide baseline data on the course of dysphagia resolution in the adult thermal burn population.

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