Postgraduate Fellow: Mrs Sabrina Eltringham
Description of research
After a stroke some people have difficulty swallowing. Food and drink can go down the wrong way into the lungs instead of the stomach. This can cause a serious chest infection.
When a stroke patient first enters hospital a specially trained nurse tests their swallow to see if the patient has a swallowing problem. If the nurse thinks the patient’s swallow is unsafe, a speech and language therapist completes a more thorough assessment and will make recommendations on how they can eat and drink more safely, or suggest different ways the patient can get the nutrition they need.
There are many swallowing tests a trained nurse might use. This project will investigate whether there are tests which are better at reducing the chance of a stroke patient getting a chest infection as a result of a problem with swallowing, and whether or not it makes a difference when the patient’s swallow is tested and how it is done.
The project will investigate what is already known about the risk of chest infection in these patients, including a review of patient notes to find out what happens in the first few days after stroke, interviews with the professionals who carry out the swallowing tests, and interviews with the patients who experience them. This information will then be used to create a questionnaire, which will be sent out to all hospitals in England and Wales to find out how different hospitals assess and manage these stroke patients in the first 72 hours after admission.
The responses to the questionnaire will be cross-referenced with information collected by the Sentinel Stroke National Audit Programme (SSNAP), which is provided by most hospitals in England and Wales. By linking the questionnaire data with data from the SSNAP register, the aim is to search for patterns that might help explain which patients are more likely to develop a chest infection and why.
The intended outcome of the project is to find new knowledge to help guide future policy on the reduction of chest infection risk after stroke.