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Swallow function and perception of dysphagia in patients with head and neck cancer


  • Presented in part at the Dysphagia Research Society annual meeting, Savannah, GA, October 26–28, 2000, and the annual convention of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, Washington, DC, November 16–19, 2000.



The relationship between subjective complaints of dysphagia and objective measures of swallow function in patients with cancers of the oral cavity, pharynx, or larynx, treated with radiotherapy ± chemotherapy has not been well documented in the literature.


Swallowing function in 132 patients with various lesions was evaluated using videofluoroscopy and analyzed by patient complaint of dysphagia grouping.


Patients with complaints of dysphagia demonstrated significantly worse swallow function as indicated by lower oropharyngeal swallow efficiency (OPSE), longer transit times, larger residues, and more swallows with aspiration. Patients with complaints of dysphagia also tended to take less of their nutrition by mouth and less variety of food consistencies in their diet compared with those without complaint.


Patients were able to perceive decrements in their swallowing function as dysphagia and may have limited their oral intake in response to that perception. The ability to accurately perceive swallowing function may be useful for self-monitoring changes in dysphagia status during a course of swallow therapy. © 2002 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Head Neck 24: 555–565, 2002