Functional and Physiological Outcomes from an Exercise-Based Dysphagia Therapy: A Pilot Investigation of the McNeill Dysphagia Therapy Program.

Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2012 Feb 24. [Epub ahead of print]


Department of Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL.


Crary MA, Carnaby GD, LaGorio LA, Carvajal PJ. Functional and physiological outcomes from an exercise-based dysphagia therapy: a pilot investigation of the McNeill Dysphagia Therapy Program.


To investigate functional and physiological changes in swallowing performance of adults with chronic dysphagia after an exercise-based dysphagia therapy.


Intervention study: before-after trial with 3-month follow-up evaluation.


Outpatient clinic within a tertiary care academic health science center.


Adults (N=9) with chronic (>12mo) dysphagia after unsuccessful prior therapies. Subjects were identified from among patients referred to an outpatient dysphagia clinic. Subjects had dysphagia secondary to prior treatment for head/neck cancer or from neurologic injury. All subjects demonstrated clinical and fluoroscopic evidence of oropharyngeal dysphagia. No subject withdrew during the course of this study.


All subjects completed 3 weeks of an intensive, exercise-based dysphagia therapy. Therapy was conducted daily for 1h/d, with additional activities completed by subjects each night between therapy sessions.


Primary outcomes were clinical and functional change in swallowing performance with maintenance at 3 months after intervention. Secondary, exploratory outcomes included physiological change in swallow performance measured by hyolaryngeal elevation, lingual-palatal and pharyngeal manometric pressure, and surface electromyographic amplitude.


Clinical and functional swallowing performances improved significantly and were maintained at the 3-month follow-up examination. Subject perspective (visual analog scale) on functional swallowing also improved. Four of 7 subjects who were initially feeding tube dependent progressed to total oral intake after 3 weeks of intervention. Physiological indices demonstrated increased swallowing effort after intervention.


Significant clinical and functional improvement in swallowing performance followed a time-limited (3wk) exercise-based intervention in a sample of subjects with chronic dysphagia. Physiological changes after therapy implicate improved neuromuscular functioning within the swallow mechanism.

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