Oropharyngeal dysphagia and aspiration may occur in infants and children. Currently, there is wide practice variation regarding when to feed children orally or place more permanent gastrostomy tube placement. Through implementation of an evidence-based guideline (EBG), we aimed to standardize the approach to these patients and reduce the rates of gastrostomy tube placement.
Between January 2014 and December 2018, we designed and implemented a quality improvement intervention creating an EBG to be used by gastroenterologists evaluating patients ≤2 years of age with respiratory symptoms who were found to aspirate on videofluoroscopic swallow study (VFSS). Our primary aim was to encourage oral feeding and decrease the use of gastrostomy tube placement by 10% within 1 year of EBG initiation; balancing measures included total hospital readmissions or emergency department (ED) visits within 6 months of the abnormal VFSS.
A total of 1668 patients (27.2%) were found to have aspiration or penetration noted on an initial VFSS during our initiative. Mean gastrostomy tube placement in these patients was 10.9% at the start of our EBG implementation and fell to 5.2% approximately 1 year after EBG initiation; this improvement was sustained throughout the next 3 years. Our balancing measures of ED visits and hospital readmissions also did not change during this time period.
Through implementation of this EBG, we reduced gastrostomy tube placement by 50% in patients presenting with oropharyngeal dysphagia and aspiration, without increasing subsequent hospital admissions or ED visits.