Vocal fold immobility and aspiration status: a direct replication study

Leder SB; Suiter DM; Duffey D; Judson BL

Dysphagia;27(2):265-70, 2012 Jun.

The purpose of this direct replication study was to confirm the incidence of vocal fold immobility (VFI) and its relationship to pharyngeal dysphagia and aspiration. Using a single-group consecutively referred case series, a total of 2,650 participants underwent fiberoptic endoscopic evaluation of swallowing between August 2003 and December 2007. Main outcome measures included overall incidence of VFI and aspiration status, with specific emphasis on age, gender, etiology and pharyngeal phase bolus flow characteristics, and side of VFI (right, left, or bilateral). These data were compared to and then combined with the original study (n = 1,452) for a total of 4,102 participants. Results indicated that the incidence of VFI was 4.3% (112/2,650), i.e., 27% (31/112) unilateral right, 58% (65/112) unilateral left, and 14% (16/112) bilateral. Incidence of aspiration was 22% (580/2,650). Of those with VFI, 40% (45/112) aspirated, i.e., 42% (13/31) unilateral right, 37% (24/65) unilateral left, and 50% (8/16) bilateral. An individual with VFI had 2.50 times the odds of aspirating as someone without VFI (95% CI = 1.86-3.37). For liquid aspiration, the odds ratio (OR) = 2.41 (95% CI = 1.77-3.28), and for puree aspiration, OR = 2.08 (95% CI = 1.47-2.93). Left VFI occurred most frequently due to surgical trauma. Liquid was aspirated more often than a puree. Males exhibited VFI more often than females. Side of VFI and age were not factors that increased the incidence of aspiration significantly. It was confirmed that VFI is not an uncommon finding during dysphagia testing and, when present, increased the odds of aspiration compared to a population already being evaluated for dysphagia.

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