Medical and paramedical treatments should be evaluated according to current standards of evidence-based medicine. Evaluation of therapy in oropharyngeal dysphagia fits into this growing interest. A systematic review is given of the literature on the effects of therapy in oropharyngeal dysphagia carried out by speech therapists. Thus, the review excludes reports of surgical or pharmacological treatments. The literature search was performed using the electronic databases PubMed and Embase. All available inclusion dates up to November 2008 were used. The search was limited to English, German, French, Spanish, and Dutch publications. MESH terms were supplemented by using free-text words (for the period after January 2005). Fifty-nine studies were included. In general, statistically significant positive therapy effects were found. However, the number of papers was rather small. Moreover, diverse methodological problems were found in many of these studies. For most studies, the conclusions could not be generalized; comparison was hindered by the range of diagnoses, types of therapies, and evaluation techniques. Many questions remain about the effects of therapy in oropharyngeal dysphagia as performed by speech and language therapists. Although some positive significant outcome studies have been published, further research based on randomized controlled trials is needed.
Keywords Systematic review – Dysphagia – Swallowing – Deglutition – Therapy effect – Therapy outcome – Rehabilitation – Deglutition disorders