Head and neck cancer (HNC) treatment causes dysphagia, which may lead to aspiration pneumonia (AP). Thickened fluids are widely used to prevent aspiration in patients with dysphagia; however, there is little evidence that they can prevent AP. This study aimed to clarify the differences between restriction of oral intake of fluids (R), only thickened fluids (TF), and no restriction of fluids (NR) for AP in patients with dysphagia after HNC treatment.
We retrospectively studied 654 patients with dysphagia after HNC surgery between 2012 and 2021. Of these, 255 had some restriction of fluids. The development of possible AP and administration of antibacterial drugs were used as outcomes. Multivariate linear regression and propensity score matching analyses were performed.
The mean patient age was 64 ± 13, 67 ± 11, and 68 ± 10 years, while the Dynamic Imaging Grade of Swallowing Toxicity score 3-4 was 2.8%, 27.5, and 53.3%% water in NR, TF, and R groups, respectively. AP was diagnosed or suspected after starting oral intake in 37 (9.3%), 11 patients (15.9%), and 45 (17.6%) and antibacterial drugs were administered in 11 (2.8%), 7 patients (10.1%), and 25 (9.8%) in NR, TF, and R groups, respectively. R and TF had significant negative impacts on AP.
Fluid restrictions may not reduce the risk of AP or affect the administration of antibacterial drugs. Medical staff should bear in mind that fluid restrictions do not necessarily prevent AP in patients with HNC.

Copyright © 2023. Published by Elsevier B.V.