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Oropharyngeal dysphagia in older persons – from pathophysiology to adequate intervention: a review and summary of an international expert meeting

Authors Wirth R, Dziewas R, Beck AM, Clavé P, Hamdy S, Heppner HJ, Langmore S, Leischker A, Martino R, Pluschinski P, Rösler A, Shaker R, Warnecke T, Sieber C, Volkert D

Received 1 October 2015

Accepted for publication 13 November 2015

Published 23 February 2016 Volume 2016:11 Pages 189—208


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single anonymous peer review

Peer reviewer comments 3

Editor who approved publication: Dr Richard Walker

Rainer Wirth,1,2 Rainer Dziewas,3 Anne Marie Beck,4 Pere Clavé,5 Shaheen Hamdy,6 Hans Juergen Heppner,7,8 Susan Langmore,9 Andreas Herbert Leischker,10 Rosemary Martino,11 Petra Pluschinski,12 Alexander Rösler,13 Reza Shaker,14 Tobias Warnecke,3 Cornel Christian Sieber,2,15 Dorothee Volkert2

1Department for Internal Medicine and Geriatrics, St Marien-Hospital Borken, Borken, Germany; 2Institute for Biomedicine of Aging, Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, Nürnberg, Germany; 3Department of Neurology, University Hospital Münster, Münster, Germany; 4Department of Nutrition and Health, Faculty of Health and Technology, Metropolitan University College, Copenhagen, Denmark; 5Centro de Investigación Biomédica en Red de enfermadades Hepáticas y Digestivas (CIBERehd), Hospital de Mataró, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Mataró, Spain; 6Centre for Gastrointestinal Sciences, Institute of Inflammation and Repair, University of Manchester, Salford Royal Hospital, Salford, UK; 7Department of Geriatrics, Witten- Herdecke University, 8Helios Clinic Schwelm, Schwelm, Germany; 9Department of Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences, Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, MA, USA; 10Department of Geriatrics, Alexianer Hospital Krefeld, Krefeld, Germany; 11Department of Speech-Language Pathology, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada; 12Department of Phoniatrics and Pediatric Audiology, University of Marburg, Marburg, Germany; 13Department of Geriatrics, Marien Hospital Hamburg, Hamburg, Germany; 14Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, WI, USA; 15Department of General Internal Medicine and Geriatrics, St John of God Hospital Regensburg, Regensburg, Germany

Oropharyngeal dysphagia (OD) is a highly prevalent and growing condition in the older population. Although OD may cause very severe complications, it is often not detected, explored, and treated. Older patients are frequently unaware of their swallowing dysfunction which is one of the reasons why the consequences of OD, ie, aspiration, dehydration, and malnutrition, are regularly not attributed to dysphagia. Older patients are particularly vulnerable to dysphagia because multiple age-related changes increase the risk of dysphagia. Physicians in charge of older patients should be aware that malnutrition, dehydration, and pneumonia are frequently caused by (unrecognized) dysphagia. The diagnosis is particularly difficult in the case of silent aspiration. In addition to numerous screening tools, videofluoroscopy was the traditional gold standard of diagnosing OD. Recently, the fiberoptic endoscopic evaluation of swallowing is increasingly utilized because it has several advantages. Besides making a diagnosis, fiberoptic endoscopic evaluation of swallowing is applied to evaluate the effectiveness of therapeutic maneuvers and texture modification of food and liquids. In addition to swallowing training and nutritional interventions, newer rehabilitation approaches of stimulation techniques are showing promise and may significantly impact future treatment strategies.

Keywords: aspiration, dehydration, dysphagia, geriatric, malnutrition, older

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