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Aural stimulation with capsaicin ointment improved swallowing function in elderly patients with dysphagia: a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind, comparative study

Authors Kondo E, Jinnouchi O, Nakano S, Ohnishi H, Kawata I, Okamoto H, Takeda N

Received 30 March 2017

Accepted for publication 14 June 2017

Published 13 November 2017 Volume 2017:12 Pages 1921—1928

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/CIA.S138357

Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewers approved by Dr Akshita Wason

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Dr Richard Walker


Eiji Kondo,1,2 Osamu Jinnouchi,3 Seiichi Nakano,2 Hiroki Ohnishi,1 Ikuji Kawata,3 Hidehiko Okamoto,4 Noriaki Takeda1

1Department of Otolaryngology, Tokushima University Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, Tokushima, 2Department of Otolaryngology, Kochi National Hospital, Kochi, 3Department of Otolaryngology, Anan Kyoei Hospital, Tokushima, 4Department of Sensori-Motor Integration, National Institute for Physiological Sciences, Okazaki, Japan

Objective: The aim of this study was to assess whether aural stimulation with ointment containing capsaicin improves swallowing function in elderly patients with dysphagia.
Study design: A randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind, comparative study.
Settings: Secondary hospital.
Patients and methods: Twenty elderly dysphagic patients with a history of cerebrovascular disorder or Parkinson’s disease were randomly divided into two groups: 10 receiving aural stimulation with 0.025% capsaicin ointment and 10 stimulated with placebo. The ointments were applied to the external auditory canal with a cotton swab. Then, swallowing of a bolus of blue-dyed water was recorded using transnasal videoendoscopy, and the swallowing function was evaluated according to both endoscopic swallowing scoring and Sensory-Motor-Reflex-Clearance (SMRC) scale.
Results: The sum of endoscopic swallowing scores was significantly decreased 30 and 60 min after a single administration in patients treated with capsaicin, but not with placebo. Reflex score, but not Sensory, Motion and Clearance scores, of the SMRC scale was significantly increased 5, 30 and 60 min after single administration in patients treated with capsaicin, but not with placebo. No patient showed signs of adverse effects.
Conclusion: As capsaicin is an agonist of the transient receptor potential vanilloid 1 (TRPV1), these findings suggest that improvement of the swallowing function, especially glottal closure and cough reflexes, in elderly dysphagic patients was due to TRPV1-mediated aural stimulation of vagal Arnold’s nerve with capsaicin, but not with a nonspecific mechanical stimulation with a cotton swab.

Keywords: dysphagia, capsaicin, cough reflex, videoendoscopy, SMRC scale, external auditory canal

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