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Coda Change

Feb 27, 2023

Sepsis causes organ and tissue dysfunction in response to severe infection, resulting in significant physical and cognitive morbidities. For patients diagnosed with severe sepsis, admission to an intensive care unit and use of an artificial airway are often required. The sequalae of severe sepsis necessitating critical care can result in significant changes to a patient’s swallowing and communication function. These negative changes and impacts to function can occur during and after a diagnosis of sepsis, and ultimately impact a patient’s health and functional status. The nature and long-term recovery of swallowing and communication function is still to be completely understood; however evidence affirms recovery continues well beyond hospital discharge.


This presentation will focus on tasks we do daily – eating, drinking and speaking. Specifically, the nature of swallow impairments will be described, and the impact of this new disability will be explored from the perspective of the patient’s body structure, function and activities. Core components of swallowing safety and efficiency will be described, alongside the role of assessment and management within and beyond the ICU. Changes to communication including altered voice, speech and language function will be described. Outcomes of altered communication function over the continuum of care during, and after hospital will be explored. The evidence base and the lived experience of sepsis and patient stories will underpin the content delivered in this presentation.


The final aim of the presentation will be to describe and highlight the role of speech pathology, an allied health profession, in the management of swallowing and communication function. Following the workshop attendees will be able to (1) describe the characteristics of swallowing and communication disorders; (2) have knowledge of the impact of these new disabilities; and (3) will be able to describe the role of speech pathology in the healthcare team for the patient with sepsis.


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