• dysphagia;
  • fibreoptic endoscopic;
  • neurological disorders;
  • screening tests;
  • swallowing;
  • systematic review;
  • videofluoroscopy


Title.  Bedside screening tests vs. videofluoroscopy or fibreoptic endoscopic evaluation of swallowing to detect dysphagia in patients with neurological disorders: systematic review.

Aim.  This paper is a report of a systematic review conducted to determine the effectiveness and feasibility of bedside screening methods for detecting dysphagia in patients with neurological disorders.

Background.  Dyspaghia affects 22–65% of patients with neurological conditions. Although there is a large variety of bedside tests to detect dysphagia, it is unknown which have the best psychometric properties and are feasible for nurses to use.

Data sources and review methods.  An electronic database search was carried out using Medline (PubMed), Embase, CINAHL, and PsychLit, including all hits up to July 2008. The search terms were dysphagia, sensitivity, specificity, diagnosis, and screening. The methodological quality of included studies was assessed.

Results.  Thirty-five out of 407 studies were included in the review. Eleven studies with sufficient methodological quality revealed that trial swallow tests using water had sensitivities between 27% and 85% and specificities between 63% and 88%. Trial swallow tests with different viscosities led to sensitivities ranging from 41% to 100% and specificities of 57% to 82%. Combining water tests with oxygen desaturation led to sensitivities between 73% and 98% and specificities between 63% and 76%. Single clinical features, such as abnormal gag, generally had low sensitivity and specificity.

Conclusion.  A water test combined with pulse oximetry using coughing, choking and voice alteration as endpoints is currently the best method to screen patients with neurological disorders for dysphagia. Further research is needed to establish the most effective standardized administration procedure for such a water test, and to assess the value of pulse oximetry, in addition to a trial swallow to detect silent aspiration.