Submental sensitive transcutaneous electrical stimulation (SSTES) at home in neurogenic oropharyngeal dysphagia: a pilot study.

Verin E, Maltete D, Ouahchi Y, Marie JP, Hannequin D, Massardier EG, Leroi AM.

Ann Phys Rehabil Med. 2011 Sep;54(6):366-75. Epub 2011 Aug 17. English, French.



Oropharyngeal dysphagia is frequent in chronic neurological disorders and increases mortality, mainly due to pulmonary complications. Our aim was to show that submental sensitive transcutaneous electrical stimulation (SSTES) applied during swallowing at home can improve swallowing function in patients with chronic neurological disorders.


Thirteen patients were recruited for the study (4 f, 68 ± 12 years). They all suffered from neurogenic oropharyngeal dysphagia. We first compared the swallowing of paste and liquid with and without SSTES. Thereafter, the patients were asked to perform SSTES at home with each meal. Swallowing was evaluated before and after six weeks of SSTES using the SWAL-QoL questionnaire.


With the stimulator switch turned on, swallowing coordination improved, with a decrease in swallow reaction time for the liquid (P<0.05) and paste boluses (P<0.01). Aspiration scores also decreased significantly with the electrical stimulations (P<0.05), with no change in stasis. At-home compliance was excellent and most patients tolerated the electrical stimulations with no discomfort. A comparison of the SWAL-QoL questionnaires after 6 weeks revealed an improvement in the burden (P=0.001), fatigue (P<0.05), and pharyngeal symptom (P<0.001) scales.


The present study demonstrated that SSTES is easy to use at home and improves oropharyngeal dysphagia quality of life.


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