Evaluation of volitional and reflexive swallowing in elderly patients with a history of pneumonia

Ann Otol Rhinol Laryngol. 2012 Mar;121(3):174-8.

Abstract

OBJECTIVES:

Precise assessment of the risk of aspiration is critical in older patients with a history of pneumonia. However, the currently popular videofluoroscopic and videoendoscopic examinations of swallowing only evaluate volitional swallowing. A method for quantitative analysis of reflexive swallowing is not yet available.

METHODS:

We evaluated volitional swallowing in the sitting position by videoendoscopic examination and then measured the volume of injected water that triggered reflexive swallowing in the supine position in 54 patients with a history of pneumonia and 24 control patients of a similar age who had no history of pneumonia.

RESULTS:

The volume of injected water that triggered reflexive swallowing was larger in the pneumonia group than in the control group (mean, 1.64 +/- 0.61 mL versus 0.71 +/- 0.28 mL; p < 0.001). Both impaired volitional swallowing and impaired reflexive swallowing independently correlated with a history of pneumonia.

CONCLUSIONS:

The endoscopic supine swallow-evoking test (“ESSET”) may detect previously omitted risk factors for aspiration in patients who can volitionally swallow.

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