Cough and aspiration of food and liquids due to oral pharyngeal Dysphagia

Smith Hammond C.

Lung. 2008;186 Suppl 1:S35-40. Epub 2008 Jan 15.


Oral pharyngeal dysphagia should be included in the differential diagnosis of patients with cough. Aspiration of food and liquid below the level of the true vocal folds observed on dynamic imaging studies i.e., videofluoroscopic (VSE) and endoscopic (FEES) evaluations of swallow, has been associated with pneumonia. Coughing while eating and drinking may indicate aspiration; however, aspiration may be clinically silent. Subjective patient, caregiver, and nurse reports of reflexive cough while eating are useful but limited in identifying patients who are at risk for aspiration. Objective measures of voluntary cough are under investigation to determine their capacity to predict the risk for aspiration and subsequent pneumonia. The treatment of dysphagic patients by a multidisciplinary team, including early evaluation by a speech-language pathologist, is associated with improved outcomes. Effective clinical interventions such as the use of compensatory swallowing strategies and the alteration of food consistencies should be based on the results of instrumental swallowing studies. Reflexive cough while eating and drinking is important for the detection of oral pharyngeal dysphagia and objective measure of voluntary cough may be a good screening tool for this condition.


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