A tracheostomy tube decreases the ability of the patient to communicate effectively. The ability to speak provides an important improvement in the quality of life for a patient with a tracheostomy. In mechanically ventilated patients, speech can be provided by the use of a talking tracheostomy tube, using a cuff-down technique with a speaking valve, and using a cuff-down technique without a speaking valve. Speech can be facilitated in patients with a tracheostomy tube who are breathing spontaneously by use of a talking tracheostomy tube, by using a cuff-down technique with finger occlusion of the proximal tracheostomy tube, and with the use of a cuff-down technique with a speaking valve. Teamwork between the patient and the patient care team (respiratory therapist, speech-language pathologist, nurse, and physician) can result in effective restoration of speech in many patients with a long-term tracheostomy.
BACKGROUND: It is not uncommon for patients requiring a period of time in the intensive care unit (ICU) to experience difficulties with communication and/or swallowing, either as a result of their illness or as a result of the treatments they receive. These difficulties can be both short term and long term and require timely and appropriate intervention in order to improve the patient’s experience and expedite recovery/rehabilitation.
AIMS: The purpose of this article is to provide critical care nurses with an update on aspects of communication, swallowing and feeding in the ICU. The paper will focus on each area in relation to the current evidence base and factors of ‘best practice’ (as determined by expert opinion).
IMPLICATIONS FOR CRITICAL CARE NURSING PRACTICE: Enabling communication can improve well-being, increase compliance and reduce length of stay; Simple modes of communication, e.g. writing/gesture/pictures can be very effective; Coded eye blinking may be unreliable because of confusion with reflexive blinking; Non-oral nutrition will generally not meet the psychological and physical needs and benefits of oral intake; Not all patients with a tracheostomy in situ will experience dysphagia; however, those considered ‘at risk’ should have their swallow assessed by an appropriately trained professional, e.g. speech and language therapist/dysphagia trained professional; An inflated tracheostomy cuff will not prevent aspiration. The decision to commence oral intake in the presence of an inflated cuff should be made as a team and take into consideration the patient’s medical and psychological status; The use of blue dye to assess the swallow carries a high false-negative rate and cannot be relied on alone to predict either the presence or the absence of aspiration.
CONCLUSION: There is still much more research to be performed and evidence to be gained regarding the input into communication, swallowing and feeding in the ICU; however, a full-team approach to these areas can have very positive effects on the patient’s experience.
Barros, Ana Paula Brandão; Portas, Juliana Godoy; Queija, Débora dos Santos.
Rev. bras. cir. cabeça pescoço;38(3):202-207, jul.-set. 2009. ilus.
In the last two decades, researchers and clinicians have been concerned to the impact of tracheotomy upon the respiration, communication and swallowing. The tracheotomy is associated to the increased risk of aspiration, and the decanulization can improve the functions quality. In those cases with easy occlusion of the tracheotomy, it is necessary gradually increasing the occlusion time and to observe the respiratory clinical condition. The sequence will vary according to the basic disease and the respiratory situation. The impact of the tracheotomy on the swallowing physiology can be both mechanical and/or functional.(AU)
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