When looking at developing countries, the prolonged intensive medical and nursing care required by many patients places extra demands on an already stretched healthcare budget. The purpose of this study was to verify the effectiveness of a systematic rehabilitative program for swallowing and oral-motor movements in intensive care unit patients with the diagnosis of tetanus. Forty-five patients who were clinically diagnosed with tetanus were included in the study. Participants were divided in two groups: Cl - consisted of 18 tetanus patients who were consecutively admitted to the infectious disease ICU from January 2002 to December 2005, prior to the existence of a systematic swallowing and oral-motor intervention: GII - consisted of 27 tetanus patients who were consecutively admitted to the infectious disease ICU from January 2006 to December 2009 and were submitted to a specific rehabilitative management of swallowing and of the oral-motor movements. Results indicate that the proposed rehabilitative program reduced by approximately 50% the time patients remained in the ICU. The significant improvement observed in patients with tetanus who were submitted to the rehabilitative program for swallowing and oral-motor movements occurred in conjunction with a reduction in the amount of time necessary to reintroduce oral feeding, to decannulate and to remove the feeding tubes. In conclusion, swallowing/muscle exercise, in patients with severe/very severe tetanus, seem to promote the remission of muscle tension and seem to maximize functional swallowing. (C) 2012 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.