Sunday, December 11, 2005


aspiration - Part of the aging process produces depressed cough and gag reflexes. Patients with arteriosclerotic vascular disease may have cranial nerve dysfunction, further diminishing these reflexes. Thus, pulmonary aspiration, or intake into the airways of food particles, fluids, or foreign bodies, can be a significant problem in the elderly, even a cause of death. Sudden aspiration of a large piece of food can lead to death by asphyxiation. The suddenness of this event has frequently led to an incorrect diagnosis of acute myocardial infarction. When smaller food particles are aspirated, an extensive hemorrhagic pneumonia may be seen in about six hours. With repeated food aspirations, X-ray findings may show small objects that look like miliary tuberculosis (small discrete multiple lesions). Patients with varying states of consciousness should not be fed orally. They should be placed in bed in such a position as to ease the drainage of upper airway secretions and gastric contents. A patient should never be placed flat in bed. Tube-fed patients should be observed for delayed gastric emptying. Positioning nearer a sitting position after feeding may prevent regurgitation.
Covington, T., and Walker, J. Current Geriatric Therapy. Philadelphia: W. B. Saunders, 1984.


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