Aspiration Pneumonia in Adults Hospitalized With Stroke at a Large Academic Hospital in Zambia

Background and Objectives

Preventing complications of stroke such as poststroke aspiration pneumonia (PSAP) may improve stroke outcomes in resource-limited settings. We investigated the incidence and associated mortality of PSAP in Zambia.


We conducted a prospective cohort study of adults with stroke at University Teaching Hospital (Lusaka, Zambia) between December 2019 and March 2020. NIH Stroke Scale, Glasgow Coma Scale, and Modified Rankin Scale scores and 9 indicators of possible PSAP were collected serially over each participant’s admission. PSAP was defined as ≥4 indicators present, and possible PSAP as 2%–3% present. T tests and 2 tests were used to compare clinical parameters across PSAP groups. Logistic regression was used to assess the relative effects of age, sex, PSAP status, and initial stroke severity on inpatient mortality.


We enrolled 125 participants. Mean age was 60 ± 16 years, 61% were female, 55% of strokes were ischemic, and the baseline NIH Stroke Scale score was 19.7 ± 8.7. Thirty-eight (30%) had PSAP, and 32 (26%) had possible PSAP. PSAP was associated with older age and more adverse stroke severity scores. Fifty-nine percent of participants with PSAP died compared with 39% with possible PSAP and 8% with no PSAP. PSAP status independently predicted inpatient mortality after controlling for age, sex, and initial stroke severity. Swallow screening was not performed for any participant.


PSAP is common and life threatening in Zambia, especially among older participants with severe stroke presentations. PSAP was associated with significantly increased mortality independent of initial stroke severity, suggesting that interventions to mitigate PSAP may improve stroke outcomes in Zambia and other resource-limited settings.

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