This study examined the effects of tracheostomy cuff deflation and one-way speaking valve placement on swallow physiology. Fourteen nonventilator-dependent patients completed videofluoroscopic swallow studies (VFSS) under three conditions: (1) cuff inflated, (2) cuff deflated, and (3) one-way valve in place. Four additional patients with cuffless tracheostomy tubes completed VFSS with and without the one-way valve in place. All swallows were analyzed for the severity of penetration/aspiration using an 8-point penetration–aspiration scale. Seven preselected swallow duration measures, extent of hyolaryngeal elevation and anterior excursion, and oropharyngeal residue were also determined. Scores on the penetration–aspiration scale were not significantly affected by cuff status, i.e., inflation or deflation. However, one-way valve placement significantly reduced scores on the penetration–aspiration scale for the liquid bolus. Patients who are unable to tolerate thin liquids may be able to safely take thin liquids when the valve is in place. However, one-way valve placement may not be beneficial for all patients. Clinicians who complete VFSS with tracheostomized patients should include several bolus presentations with a one-way speaking valve in place before making any decisions regarding the use of the valve as a means to reduce aspiration.
Keywords Tracheostomy – Deglutition – Aspiration – Deglutition disorders