Avoiding complications

The North Mississippi Medical Center in Tupelo has revised its stroke program, and, aside from saving money and lives, one benefit stands out: The incidence of aspiration pneumonia dropped significantly. In 1995, 23 patients had the complication. After careful education in many areas, including family education, the number dropped to 11 in 1997.

"While a sip of water is the most natural thing in the world for a daughter to offer her mother, that act could increase Mom's cost of hospitalization from $5,000 to $26,000," explains Jan Englert, RN, director of the clinical efficiency department at North Mississippi. Water is a complicating drink for these patients. They have more difficulty swallowing liquids like water than thicker solutions, and water can go directly into the lungs.

"That's just one example of the importance of establishing protocols and making sure family mem bers are taught these protocols," says Anita Box, RN, stroke case manager for North Mississippi.