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Aspiration Pneumonia and Dysphagia in the Elderly*

Paul E. Marik; Danielle Kaplan
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*From the Department of Critical Care Medicine (Dr. Marik), University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA; and Department of Speech-Language Pathology (Ms. Kaplan), University Health Network, Toronto Western Hospital, Toronto, ON, Canada.

Correspondence to: Paul Marik, MD, FCCP, Department of Critical Care, University of Pittsburgh Medical School, 640A Scaife Hall, 3550 Terrace St, Pittsburgh, PA, 15261; e-mail: maripe@ccm.upmc.edu.



Chest. 2003;124(1):328-336. doi:10.1378/chest.124.1.328
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Community-acquired pneumonia (CAP) is a major cause of morbidity and mortality in the elderly, and the leading cause of death among residents of nursing homes. Oropharyngeal aspiration is an important etiologic factor leading to pneumonia in the elderly. The incidence of cerebrovascular and degenerative neurologic diseases increase with aging, and these disorders are associated with dysphagia and an impaired cough reflex with the increased likelihood of oropharyngeal aspiration. Elderly patients with clinical signs suggestive of dysphagia and/or who have CAP should be referred for a swallow evaluation. Patients with dysphagia require a multidisciplinary approach to swallowing management. This may include swallow therapy, dietary modification, aggressive oral care, and consideration for treatment with an angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitor.


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