Postoperative pneumonia contributes to morbidity and mortality in patients who have open heart surgery.


To determine if measures to reduce aspiration in patients after cardiothoracic surgery would decrease the occurrence of postoperative pneumonia.


All patients undergoing cardiothoracic surgery from April 2008 through October 2008 were prospectively enrolled in the study. An aspiration prevention protocol was developed and implemented in a 24-bed intensive care unit. The protocol incorporated a bedside swallowing evaluation by a speech therapist and progressive oral intake.


In the 6 months before development and implementation of the protocol, postoperative pneumonia developed in 11% of patients. After implementation of the protocol, no patients had postoperative pneumonia (P < .01).


Implementing an aspiration prevention protocol was effective in reducing the occurrence of postoperative pneumonia in patients who had cardiothoracic surgery.

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