Background: Dysphagia can be a life-threatening issue for post-stroke patients, with aspiration pneumonia (AP) being a common risk. However, there is hope through the potential combination of transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) and classical behavior therapy. Our study aims to investigate the effectiveness of this combination in diminishing the risk of AP in patients with dysphagia who suffered from stroke.
Methods: In this randomized, parallel-group, blinded clinical trial, 48 patients were allocated into the sham group (speech therapy + 30 seconds of tDCS) and the real group (speech therapy + 20 minutes of tDCS). We used the Mann Assessment of Swallowing Ability (MASA) as an assessment tool. We assessed patients at baseline, one day after treatment, and at a one-month follow-up.
Results: Groups showed no significant difference at baseline. After treatment, the real group showed a significant difference in the severity risk of AP (P = 0.02); the same was for the follow-up (P = 0.04). The number of patients showing severe risk of AP was higher in the sham group after treatment (n = 13, 54.20%) and at follow-up (n = 4, 18.20%) than the real group (n = 4, 16.70%; n = 1, 4.50%, respectively). None of the patients reported the history of AP at any stage of assessment.
Conclusion: Although the results were more promising in the real group than the sham group in reducing the risk of AP, both techniques can prevent AP. Therefore, we recommend early dysphagia management to prevent AP regardless of the treatment protocol.