Electrophysiological evaluation of pharyngeal phase of swallowing in patients with Parkinson's disease



We studied the various physiological aspects of oropharyngeal swallowing in Parkinson's disease (PD). Fifty-eight patients with PD were investigated by clinical and electrophysiological methods that measured the oropharyngeal phase of swallowing. All patients except 1 had mild to moderate degree of disability score. Dysphagia was demonstrated in 53% of all patients in whom the test of dysphagia limit was abnormal. All PD patients with or without dysphagia displayed the following abnormalities: (1) the triggering of the swallowing reflex was prolonged probably due to inadequate bolus control in the mouth and tongue and/or a specific delay in the execution of the swallowing reflex; (2) the duration of the pharyngeal reflex time was extremely prolonged due to slowness of the sequential muscle movements, especially those of the suprahyoid-submental muscles; (3) cricopharyngeal muscle of the upper oesophageal sphincter was found to be electrophysiologically normal; and (4) the electrophysiological phenomena in PD patients could not be strongly correlated with the degree of the disability and clinical score of the PD. It was concluded that various motor disorders of PD have considerable influence on oropharyngeal swallowing: hypokinesia, reduced rate of spontaneous swallowing, and the slowness of segmented but coordinated sequential movements rather than any abnormalities in the central pattern generator of the bulbar center. Some compensatory mechanisms in the course of PD may explain the benign nature of swallowing disorder until the terminal stage of the disease. Similarly, the swallowing problems of PD are not only related with the dopamine deficiency; some other nondopaminergic mechanisms may also be involved. © 2002 Movement Disorder Society