Ventilator-associated pneumonia (VAP) remains a common hazardous complication in mechanically ventilated patients and is associated with increased morbidity and mortality. We undertook a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials to assess the effect of toothbrushing as a component of oral care on the prevention of VAP in adult critically ill patients.
A systematic literature search of PubMed and Embase (up to April 2012) was conducted. Eligible studies were randomized controlled trials of mechanically ventilated adult patients receiving oral care with toothbrushing. Relative risks (RRs), weighted mean differences (WMDs), and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were calculated and heterogeneity was assessed with the I2 test.
Four studies with a total of 828 patients met the inclusion criteria. Toothbrushing did not significantly reduce the incidence of VAP (RR, 0.77; 95% CI, 0.50 to 1.21) and intensive care unit mortality (RR, 0.88; 95% CI, 0.70 to 1.10). Toothbrushing was not associated with a statistically significant reduction in duration of mechanical ventilation (WMD, -0.88 days; 95% CI, -2.58 to 0.82), length of intensive care unit stay (WMD, -1.48 days; 95% CI, -3.40 to 0.45), antibiotic-free day (WMD, -0.52 days; 95% CI, -2.82 to 1.79), or mechanical ventilation-free day (WMD, -0.43 days; 95% CI, -1.23 to 0.36).
Oral care with toothbrushing versus without toothbrushing does not significantly reduce the incidence of VAP and alter other important clinical outcomes in mechanically ventilated patients. However, the results should be interpreted cautiously since relevant evidence is still limited, although accumulating. Further large-scale, well-designed randomized controlled trials are urgently needed.