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Swallowing frequency: Impact of accumulated oropharyngeal secretion levels and gustatory stimulation

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February 24, 2016
by Susan L. Brady, MS, CCC-SLP, BRS-S; Michele W. Wesling, MA, CCC-SLP; Joseph J. Donzelli, MD; Scott Kaszuba, MD

Abstract

We conducted a prospective, descriptive study of 27 individuals with known or suspected dysphagia to investigate the relationship between swallowing frequency, accumulated oropharyngeal secretion levels, and gustatory stimulation. Assessment of the secretion level was quantified with the use of a previously published 5-point rating scale using endoscopy. Overall, we found a moderate relationship between the baseline swallowing frequency at rest and the accumulated oropharyngeal secretion level (Pearson correlation 0.470; p = 0.01). The study sample was divided into two groups based on their secretion level. Group 1 (n = 19; mean age 59.7 ± 21.5 years) included patients whose accumulated oropharyngeal secretion level was rated as 1 (normal) or 2 (mild). Group 2 (n = 8; mean age 69.78 ± 8.35 years) included patients whose accumulated oropharyngeal secretion level was rated as 4 (severe) or 5 (profound). For Group 1, swallowing frequency increased from a baseline of 1.05 to 5.26 swallows over 2 minutes, following gustatory stimulation; for Group 2 it increased from a baseline of 0.125 swallows to 3.5 swallows. These results indicate that individuals with a lower baseline swallowing frequency at rest demonstrated a higher accumulated oropharyngeal secretion level as viewed by nasal endoscopy and that, regardless of secretion level, gustatory stimulation was effective at increasing swallowing frequency. Increasing swallowing frequency may be a functional dysphagia treatment objective in efforts to improve the efficiency of the swallow and may offer better management of accumulated oropharyngeal secretions.

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