BACKGROUND: Poor oral hygiene has been associated with ventilator-acquired pneumonia. Yet providing oral care for intubated patients is problematic. Furthermore, concerns that oral care could raise intracranial pressure (ICP) may cause nurses to use foam swabs to provide oral hygiene rather than tooth brushing as recommended by the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses. Evidence is needed to support the safety of toothbrushing during oral care. We therefore evaluated ICP and cerebral perfusion pressure (CPP) during oral care with a manual or electric toothbrush in intubated patients in a neuroscience intensive care unit (ICU).
METHODS: As part of a larger 2-year, prospective, randomized clinical trial, 47 adult neuroscience ICU patients with an ICP monitor received oral care with a manual or electric toothbrush. ICP and CPP were recorded before, during, and after oral care over the first 72 h of admission.
RESULTS: Groups did not differ significantly in age, gender, or severity of injury. Of 807 ICP and CPP measurements obtained before, during, and after oral care, there were no significant differences in ICP (P = 0.72) or CPP (P = 0.68) between toothbrush methods. Analysis of pooled data from both groups revealed a significant difference across the three time points (Wilks' lambda, 12.56; P < 0.001; partial η(2), 0.36). ICP increased significantly (mean difference, 1.7 mm Hg) from before to during oral care (P = 0.001) and decreased significantly (mean difference, 2.1 mm Hg) from during to after oral care (P < 0.001).
CONCLUSIONS: In the absence of preexisting intracranial hypertension during oral care, tooth brushing, regardless of method, was safely performed in intubated neuroscience ICU patients.
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