The impact of a simple, low-cost oral care protocol on ventilator-associated pneumonia rates in a surgical intensive care unit

Carrie S Sona, Jeanne E Zack, Marilyn E Schallom, Maryellen McSweeney, Kathleen McMullen, James Thomas, Craig M Coopersmith, Walter A Boyle, Timothy G Buchman, John E Mazuski, Douglas J E Schuerer
Journal of Intensive Care Medicine 2009, 24 (1): 54-62

OBJECTIVE: The purpose of this study was to determine the effects of a simple low-cost oral care protocol on ventilator-associated pneumonia rates in a surgical intensive care unit.

DESIGN: Preintervention and postintervention observational study.

SETTING: Twenty-four bed surgical/trauma/burn intensive care units in an urban university hospital.

PATIENTS: All mechanically ventilated patients that were admitted to the intensive care unit between June 1, 2004 and May 31, 2005.

INTERVENTIONS: An oral care protocol to assist in prevention of bacterial growth of plaque by cleaning the patients' teeth with sodium monoflurophosphate 0.7% paste and brush, rinsing with tap water, and subsequent application of a 0.12% chlorhexidine gluconate chemical solution done twice daily at 12-hour intervals.

MEASUREMENTS AND MAIN RESULTS: During the preintervention period from June 1, 2003 to May 31, 2004, there were 24 infections in 4606 ventilator days (rate = 5.2 infections per 1000 ventilator days). After the institution of the oral care protocol, there were 10 infections in 4158 ventilator days, resulting in a lower rate of 2.4 infections per 1000 ventilator days. This 46% reduction in ventilator-associated pneumonia was statistically significant (P = .04). Staff compliance with the oral care protocol during the 12-month period was also monitored biweekly and averaged 81%. The total cost of the oral care protocol was US$2187.49. There were 14 fewer cases of ventilator-associated pneumonia, which led to a decrease in cost of US$140 000 to US$560 000 based on the estimated cost per ventilator-associated pneumonia infection of US$10 000 to US$40 000. There was an overall reduction in ventilator-associated pneumonia without a change to the gram-negative or gram-positive microorganism profile.

CONCLUSIONS: The implementation of a simple, low-cost oral care protocol in the surgical intensive care unit led to a significantly decreased risk of acquiring ventilator-associated pneumonia.

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