Background Although many dysphagia screening tools exist, none has high sensitivity and reliability or can be administered quickly with minimal training.

Objective To design and validate a swallowing screening tool to be used by health care professionals who are not speech language pathologists to identify dysphagia and aspiration risk in acute stroke patients.

Methods In a prospective study of 300 patients admitted to the stroke service at an urban tertiary care hospital, interrater and test-retest reliabilities of a new tool (the Acute Stroke Dysphagia Screen) were established. The tool was administered by nursing staff when patients were admitted to the stroke unit. A speech language pathologist blinded to the results with the new tool administered the Mann Assessment of Swallowing Ability, a clinical bedside evaluation, with dysphagia operationally defined by a score less than 178.

Results The mean time from admission to screening with the new tool was 8 hours. The mean time between administration of the new tool and the clinical bedside evaluation was 32 hours. For the new tool, interrater reliability was 93.6% and test-retest reliability was 92.5%. The new tool had a sensitivity of 91% and a specificity of 74% for detecting dysphagia and a sensitivity of 95% and a specificity of 68% for detecting aspiration risk.

Conclusions The Acute Stroke Dysphagia Screen is an easily administered and reliable tool that has sufficient sensitivity to detect both dysphagia and aspiration risk in acute stroke patients.

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