Objective: To determine the prevalence of penetration and aspiration on videofluoroscopic swallow studies (VFSS) in normal individuals without dysphagia.
Study Design: Case series with planned data collection.
Setting: A tertiary urban university hospital.
Subjects and Methods: Normal adult volunteers without dysphagia, neurological disease, or previous surgery underwent VFSS. Studies were recorded and then reviewed for evidence of penetration or aspiration. The degree of penetration was assessed with the penetration-aspiration scale (PAS). The effect of age, bolus size, and consistency was evaluated.
Results: A total of 149 VFSS (596 swallows) were reviewed. The mean age of the cohort was 57 years (±19 years); 56 percent were female. Only one (0.6%) individual aspirated on VFSS. Seventeen (11.4%) individuals demonstrated penetration. The mean PAS for the entire cohort was 1.17 (±0.66). Prevalence of penetration by swallow was 2.85 percent (17/596). Prevalence of penetration was 9.3 percent in elderly individuals aged >65 years and 14.3 percent in adults aged <65 years (P = 0.49). Prevalence of penetration on a liquid bolus was 3.4 percent (15/447) and on paste was 1.3 percent (2/149) (P > 0.05). Prevalence of penetration for a bolus <30 cc was 2.34 percent (7/298) and for a bolus >30 cc was 5.4 percent (8/149) (P > 0.05).
Conclusion: Aspiration on VFSS is not a normal finding. Penetration is present in 11.4 percent of normal adults and is more common with a liquid bolus.