Allowing Thin Water for Dysphagic Patients: Is It Safe?

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Mary Kay Welle, MSN, RN, CNS
Department of Nursing, Saint Mary's College, South Bend, IN

Learning Objective 1: understand the Frazier Water protocol as an intervention allowing oral ingestion of thin or regular water to dysphagic patients.

Learning Objective 2: understand the nursing concepts necessary to maintain patient safety while implementing the Frazier Water protocol.

Purpose: The purpose of this study is to examine the safety of the  practice of the Frazier Water protocol. The Frazier Water protocol as an intervention allows oral ingestion of unlimited thin or regular water to dysphagic patients who have been recommended by speech-language pathologists to receive thickened liquids.
Design and Methods: An evaluation of the evidence of the practice, scope, and safety of the Frazier Water Protocol. Evaluation of sources used for this study were rated to level of evidence and quality grading according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality [AHRQ].
Findings: The clinical concern remains unresolved of whether dysphagic stroke patients on oral thickened liquids who have the Frazier Water protocol are at greater risk for aspiration pneumonia compared to those dysphagic stroke patients that are maintained on oral thickened liquids exclusively.  There are no clinical trials regarding the practice. However, it has been safely practiced at the Frazier Rehabilitation Institute since 1984.
Conclusion: Education and awareness of the Frazier Water protocol guidelines is necessary for safe practice and delivery. Communication and interdisciplinary collaboration is also essential for success. Recommendations would be to advance with caution and thoroughly train care staff to safely feed dysphagic patients, to understand the guidelines of the Frazier Water protocol, to recognize the signs and symptoms of aspiration pneumonia and to standardize criteria for diagnosis of dysphagia. It would also be crucial to recognize and understand the predictors of aspiration pneumonia.