New research shows very high prevalence of swallowing problems and malnutrition in patients hospitalized with COVID-19

An observational study conducted during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, now published in Clinical Nutrition, shows the prevalence and burden of oropharyngeal dysphagia (swallowing difficulty) and malnutrition is very high in patients hospitalized with COVID-19

The study reveals patients admitted to hospital with COVID-19 face significant nutritional challenges1. Over half of patients presented with oropharyngeal dysphagia upon hospital admission, and close to half of patients developed malnutrition while in hospital. Patients lost an average of 10 kg, prolonging hospital stay by up to 10 days and negatively impacting their recovery. Dysphagia was also an independent risk factor for malnutrition, and the presence of swallowing difficulties at discharge was associated with higher mortality at 6 months compared to patients without dysphagia (28.4% vs. 7.1%).

The findings are part of a prospective, observational trial in 205 COVID-19 patients admitted to a general ward at the Consorci Sanitari del Maresme in Catalonia, Spain. Patients were assessed and screened for both dysphagia and malnutrition at pre-admission, admission and discharge, and after 3- and 6-months’ follow up

This research shows the high prevalence and impact of dysphagia and malnutrition in people hospitalized with COVID-19. As such, we recommend a strategy of systematic screening for dysphagia and malnutrition of COVID-19 patients at hospital admission. The simultaneous management of the two conditions must be proactive, aggressive and early, from the moment the patient arrives in the emergency room onwards.

Lead investigator, Professor Pere Clavé

Nutritional therapy for dysphagia and malnutrition in COVID-19 patients, both in hospital and after discharge, includes fluid thickening, texture-modified foods and nutritional support, such as oral nutritional supplements.*

This study was supported by Nutricia as part of the NutriCOVer program, an initiative by Nutricia to support independent research and contribute to real-world evidence about, and clinical guidance, for the nutritional management of patients recovering from severe COVID-19 infection.

Read the full study in Clinical Nutrition


* Food for special medical purposes for the dietary management of dysphagia or disease-related malnutrition. Must be used under medical supervision only. For more information, please contact your healthcare professional

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