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About 50 per cent of patients who have recently had a stroke will experience dysphagia (swallowing problems) which can in turn lead to pneumonia, disability and even death. That’s why guidelines recommend that swallowing tests be conducted in all stroke patients within the first 72 hours after stroke, before taking any food or liquid by mouth.

Dr. Kapral’s team used linked patient health records from the Ontario Stroke Registry and the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES) to investigate whether all stroke patients in Ontario between 2010 – 2013 were screened for dysphagia.

The team found that one in five stroke patients were not given swallowing tests, particularly if the stroke was mild, even though all patients who experience stroke (whether severe or mild) are at risk of swallowing problems. They say that all care providers need to be aware of the importance of swallowing tests, since failed tests or missed diagnoses put patients at very high risk of disability, pneumonia and death.

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