Link between strokes and pneumonia

26 April 2013

Around 6000 New Zealanders suffer strokes each year and a University of Canterbury researcher is trying to find out why many of them develop life-threatening pneumonia.

Link between strokes and pneumonia - Imported from Legacy News system

Around 6000 New Zealanders suffer strokes each year and a University of Canterbury researcher is trying to find out why many of them develop life-threatening pneumonia.

Between a third and a half of stroke patients are at increased risk of developing pneumonia. The average age of stroke victims is 69 for men and 73 for women. Pneumonia among stroke victims is a serious cause of death and increases the cost of acute hospitalisation by about $9000 per admission. 

UC PhD student Sarah Davies is researching the problems under supervision of Dr Maggie-Lee Huckabee.

"In New Zealand, the rate of pneumonia in patients with swallowing problems following strokes is about 27 percent.

"One of the aims of my research is to evaluate the effect of a rigorous stroke management protocol on the rate of pneumonia in large hospitals.

"I will be looking at pneumonia rates before the protocol is applied and compare them to pneumonia rates after the protocol is implemented. Secondary outcomes include mortality, length of acute hospital stay, diet restriction at discharge and route of feeding at discharge such as tube feeding or oral feeding. 

"Every patient referred for swallowing assessment will have a cough reflex test, the results of which will rigidly dictate whether they are allowed to eat or whether they need to undergo further testing. 

"We know that improving teeth and denture cleaning in patients with stroke leads to improvements in cough reflex sensitivity. However, the reason for this remains unknown. It is suspected that there may be a relationship between oral bacteria and cough reflex sensitivity, but this has never been tested.

"Past research in this field has focussed on nursing home patients and surgical patients. To date, there have been no studies reporting the relationship between oral bacteria and cough sensitivity in acute stroke patients.

"The second aim of my research is to examine the relationships between oral bacteria, the protective cough reflex and pneumonia in patients with stroke and swallowing problems.

"Results from both of these studies will provide key information towards identifying and changing factors that contribute to the unacceptably high pneumonia rates in patients with stroke in New Zealand,’’ says Davies, who is working part-time as a speech and language therapist at Princess Margaret Hospital’s acute stroke unit.

For further information please contact:
Kip Brook
Media Consultant
Student Services and Communications
University of Canterbury
Ph: (03) 364 3325
Mobile: 027 5030 168
kip.brook@canterbury.ac.nz