Author(s): Sasaki H, Sekizawa K, Yanai M, Arai H, Yamaya M,
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Abstract Aspiration pneumonia is associated with decreases in both swallowing and cough reflexes and is the most common cause of death in the elderly. Basal ganglia strokes might predispose these patients to develop pneumonia owing to reductions of both reflexes, resulting in frequent aspiration during sleep. An impairment of dopamine metabolism in the basal ganglia is observed in these patients and levodopa administration improves the impaired swallowing reflex. Both swallowing and cough reflexes are mediated by endogenous substance P (SP) released from vagal sensory nerves in the pharynx and upper airways. The addition of a low dose of capsaicin to liquid or food, which stimulates the release of SP, may help prevent aspiration pneumonia. Angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitor decreases SP catabolism resulting in improvements in both reflexes. Oral care and the sitting position after meals may decrease aspiration pneumonia in the elderly.
This article was published in Intern Med
and referenced in Journal of Gerontology & Geriatric Research