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Comparison of dysphagia before and after deep brain stimulation in Parkinson's disease§


  • Funding agencies: This project was supported by funding from the Laboratory for Research and Education in Neuroscience, Detroit, Michigan, and a program development grant, Henry Ford Hospital, Detroit, Michigan.

  • Relevant conflicts of interest/financial disclosures: A portion of Tausha Beardsley's salary was paid through a program development grant at Henry Ford Hospital to assist with data collection and organization of this research.

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    Full financial disclosures and author roles may be found in the online version of this article.


Although dysphagia is a common problem for many Parkinson's disease (PD) patients, the effect of deep brain stimulation (DBS) on swallowing is unclear. Fourteen subjects with advanced PD underwent videofluorographic swallowing studies prior to bilateral DBS of the subthalamic nucleus (STN) and at 3 and 12 months postprocedure. They were tested under several stimulation and medication conditions. Subjects completed the Dysphagia Handicap Index at each time. There was a strong trend toward improved swallowing response for solid intake in the medication-free condition with the stimulator on compared with the stimulator off (P = .0107). Also, there was a trend toward improved oral preparation of thin liquids (P = .0368) in the medication-free condition when the stimulator was on versus off 12 months later. The remaining swallowing parameters showed no change or worsening of swallowing function regardless of stimulator or medication status. Results of the Dysphagia Handicap Index revealed significant improvement in subject self-perception of swallowing 3 and 12 months following the procedure compared with baseline on the functional subscale (P = .020 and P = .010, respectively), the emotional subscale (P = .013 and P = .003, respectively), and the total score (P = .025 and P = .003, respectively). These data suggest that bilateral STN-DBS does not substantively impair swallowing in PD. In addition, it may improve motor sequencing of the oropharyngeal swallow for solid consistencies (which are known to provide increased sensory feedback to assist motor planning of the oropharyngeal swallow). Subjects with advanced PD who are undergoing DBS may perceive significant improvement in swallowing ability despite the lack of objective improvements in swallowing function. © 2012 Movement Disorder Society