Dysphagia after Stroke: An Unmet Antibiotic Stewardship Opportunity

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The goal of antibiotic stewardship is to improve antibiotic use, often by reducing unnecessary treatment. Bedside dysphagia screening tools help identify patients at high risk of aspiration following stroke. Presence of dysphagia does not indicate a need for antibiotic treatment. Therefore, this retrospective, cohort study was developed to evaluate the association of dysphagia and antibiotic prescribing following stroke. There were 117 patients included. Patients were placed into 2 cohorts based on the results of the dysphagia screening, with 55 patients positive for dysphagia and 62 patients negative for dysphagia. Patients with dysphagia tended to be older, had higher National Institutes of Health stroke scores, and lower renal function. Patients with dysphagia were prescribed more empiric antibiotics than those without dysphagia (18.2% vs. 3.2%, p = 0.01). This resulted in 53 antibiotic days of therapy in the dysphagia cohort compared to 19 antibiotic days of therapy in the no dysphagia cohort (p = 0.1). No patients later developed pneumonia and only one patient was started antibiotics after 48 h. Two cases of Clostridioides difficile were reported. Both patients were in the dysphagia cohort and received antibiotics. Multivariable logistic regression demonstrated that positive chest x-ray findings and failed dysphagia screen were independent conditions associated with initiating antibiotics. These findings indicate that antibiotic use was higher in patients following stroke with a positive dysphagia screen. Close monitoring of stroke patients, particularly when positive for dysphagia, might be an under-recognized antibiotic stewardship opportunity.