Swallowing impairment and pulmonary dysfunction in Parkinson’s disease: the silent threats.

J Neurol Sci. 2014 Apr 15;339(1-2):149-52. doi: 10.1016/j.jns.2014.02.004. Epub 2014 Feb 14.



Swallowing disorders and respiratory impairment are frequent in Parkinson‘s disease (PD) patients, and aspiration pneumonia remains the leading cause of death among these subjects.


The objective of this study was to investigate whether there is an association between pulmonary impairment and swallowing dysfunction in PD patients.


A cross-sectional study with a comparison group was conducted with PD patients. Subjects were submitted to demographic questionnaires and underwent spirometric and videofluorographic assessments. Significance level was considered at 95% (p<0.05).


Among 35 PD patients, 40% presented with swallowing complaints. However, 22% of the clinically asymptomatic patients presented airway food penetration when submitted to videofluoroscopy. In 20% of PD patients material entered the airways and there was contact with the vocal folds in 7%. However, there was an efficient cleaning with residue deglutition in almost all patients. No penetration/aspiration was detected among the controls. Respiratory parameters were below the normal predicted values in PD patients when compared to the healthy controls.


These data suggest an association between pulmonary dysfunction and swallowing impairment in PD patients; even in patients without swallowing complaints, impaired pulmonary function can be detected.


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