Open Access Research article

Dysphagia as a predictor of outcome and transition to palliative care among middle cerebral artery ischemic stroke patients

Christa O’Hana V San Luis12*, Ilene Staff34, Gilbert J Fortunato34 and Louise D McCullough123

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Neurology Hartford Hospital, Hartford, USA

2 Departments of Neurology and Neurosciences The University of Connecticut Health Center, Farmington, USA

3 The Stroke Center at Hartford Hospital, Hartford, USA

4 Hartford Hospital Research Administration, Hartford, USA

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BMC Palliative Care 2013, 12:21  doi:10.1186/1472-684X-12-21

Published: 10 May 2013

Abstract

Background

Middle Cerebral Artery (MCA) territory strokes can be disabling and may leave patients unable to swallow safely. Decisions regarding artificial nutrition and goals of care often arise in patients with severe strokes leading to dysphagia. This study determined some predictors of early transition to palliative level of care among patients with acute ischemic MCA stroke with dysphagia.

Methods

This is a retrospective cohort study. Demographic and clinical data of patients presenting to Hartford Hospital with an acute ischemic stroke between January 2005-December 2010 were gathered utilizing the Stroke Center at Hartford Hospital Database. The 236 patients included were divided into “early transition” and “not transitioned” to palliative care cohorts. Primary outcome was transition to palliative care. Factors that were significantly associated with an early transition to palliative level of care in univariate analysis were then entered into a multivariate logistic regression analysis to identify potential independent predictors of early transition to palliative level of care. The significance level was set at p < 0.05.

Results

79 patients (34%) were transitioned to palliative level of care after failing the first swallow evaluation within a median of 3 days. Factors predictive of an early transition to palliative level of care after multivariate logistic regression analysis included advancing age (p < 0.001; OR: 1.10; 95% CI :1.056-1.155) , left MCA infarct (p = 0.039; OR: 0.417; 95% CI:0.182-0.956), a high NIHSS score on admission (p = 0.017; OR: 3.038; 95% CI: 1.22-7.555), administration of intra-arterial tPA (p < 0.001; OR: 7.106; 955 CI 2.541-19.873) and the inability to be assessed on the 1st swallow evaluation (p < 0.001; OR 0.053; 95% CI 0.022-0.131).

Conclusions

The severity of dysphagia influences early transition to palliative level of care in acute stroke patients. Independent predictors of an early transition to palliative level of care among patients with an acute MCA territory stroke and dysphagia included advancing age, a left MCA infarct, a high NIHSS score on admission, administration of intra-arterial tPA and the inability to be assessed on the 1st swallow evaluation. This information may guide discussions with families of patients with MCA territory strokes regarding artificial nutrition and goals of care.