Objectives: Typical aging may result in subclinical swallowing alterations (presbyphagia), which can place an individual at risk for dysphagia-related conditions, such as aspiration pneumonia, secondary to loss of functional reserve and rising incidence of age-related diseases associated with dysphagia. The purpose of this study was to investigate occurrence of airway invasion among healthy, nondysphagic community-dwelling adults. Further, we tested for differences of airway invasion across age categories and between sexes. Methods: Each eligible participant underwent a videofluoroscopic swallow study using a standardized approach of various volumes and viscosities. Ten swallows observed in the lateral viewing plane was assessed for observation of bolus airway invasion using the Penetration-Aspiration Scale (PAS) scoring system. Eligible participants (N = 195) were categorized according to 1 of 3 age categories (21-39 years, 40-59 years, 60 years and older) and sex (male, female) for analyses. Results: Out of 1936 swallows analyzed, we observed penetration in 113 swallows (5.8%) and aspiration in 6 swallows (0.3%). Majority (98%) of bolus airway invasion events occurred during the swallow. Mean or worst PAS scores did not significantly differ across age categories or between sexes. The odds ratios of PAS impairment between age categories did not reveal any significant differences. Males were more likely to have impaired PAS scores relative to females (odds ratio [OR] = 3.5; P =.01). Conclusions: Entrance of ingested material into the airway observed during videofluoroscopy is uncommon in healthy adults, which helps support the notion that aging may not directly correlate with increased risk of aspiration. Rather, the increased risk of aspiration observed in the aging population may result from the increased incidence of neurological and other diseases with dysphagia as common sequelae with advancing age. Future investigations should compare age-matched healthy controls with a diseased population (eg, cerebral vascular accident) to further explore the relationship between aspiration risk as a function of age compared to consequence of disease/injury.
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