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Swallowing difficulties in Duchenne muscular dystrophy: Indications for feeding assessment and outcome of videofluroscopic swallow studies

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Aloysius, A.; Born, P.; Kinali, M.; Davis, T.; Pane, M.; Mercuri, E.

Feeding difficulties are known to occur with advancing age in Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD). We evaluated the role of videofluoroscopy swallow study (VFSS) in a group of 30 DMD patients with feeding difficulties. Indications for feeding assessment were: respiratory infections potentially attributable to aspiration (n=10) and/or episodes of choking (n=24) subdivided into isolated choking events (n=8) and regular choking during swallowing (n=16). Indications for assessment were analysed in relation to the VFSS results. Median age at assessment was 17.13 years (range 6-31.4). Twenty-four VFSS were performed. Prolonged chewing and effortful bolus transport for solids increased with age. Swallow trigger was normal in the majority of cases. All patients had some post-swallow pharyngeal residue around the laryngeal inlet increasing in volume with age. Although this residue did not result in aspiration, it was worse in patients that were frequently choking. Three patients intermittently had penetration of the supraglottic space that did not reach the vocal folds during the swallow. Our results suggest that reported swallowing problems when assessed are not always associated with difficulties on VFSS. It is the oral phase of swallowing that is most significantly affected in DMD. The pharyngeal phase is well triggered but is weak with incomplete pharyngeal clearance leaving pharyngeal residue. Insufficient or effortful chewing coupled with weak clearance may predispose them to choking episodes either as a one off event or with increasing frequency with age. This study suggests that VFSS may not be of additional benefit to careful feeding history and observation in DMD with feeding difficulties.

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