Dysphagia Characteristics of Patients Post SARS-CoV-2 During Inpatient Rehabilitation

Kathleen Webler*, Julia Carpenter, Valerie Hamilton, Miriam Rafferty, Leora R. Cherney

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Objective: To investigate dysphagia in patients recovering from SARS-CoV-2 admitted to acute inpatient rehabilitation by summarizing clinical swallow evaluation and videofluoroscopic swallow study findings. Design: Retrospective cohort study. Setting: Urban inpatient rehabilitation hospital. Participants: The first inpatients admitted with SARS-CoV-2 (N=40) who participated in a videofluoroscopic swallow study. Interventions: Not applicable. Main Outcome Measures: Patient characteristics upon admission (duration of intubation, tracheostomy status, comorbidities, videofluoroscopic swallow study (VFSS) completion at previous level of care); admission International Dysphagia Diet level (IDDSI); Mann Assessment of Swallowing Ability (MASA), Functional Oral Intake Scale (FOIS), dysphagia severity rating; penetration aspiration scale (PAS) rated during VFSS; and IDDSI level recommended after completion of VFSS. Results: Twenty percent of patients had been evaluated by videofluoroscopy in acute care. Nineteen of 37 (51%) individuals were upgraded to IDDSI level 7 regular diet with level 0 thin liquids and achieved a FOIS of 7 after the completion of the VFSS. Five individuals (13%) received a diet downgrade or remained on the same diet recommendations from their admission. Total numerical score (TNS) of less than 170 on the MASA predicted presence of aspiration in 27% of patients (6 of 22). Seventy-two percent of the sample (16 of 22) had a TNS less than 170 but did not demonstrate any instances of aspiration. The odds of patients having a PAS of 3 or greater increased by approximately 15% (odds ratio, 1.15; 95% confidence interval, 1.03-1.27; P=.013). Thus, with each additional day of intubation during acute care stay, there was a 15% greater likelihood of having airway invasion. Conclusions: Instrumental swallow evaluations are imperative to diagnose and treat dysphagia in the post-coronavirus disease population. Because of the heterogeneity of this population, high incidence of prolonged intubation, and limitations of the clinical swallowing evaluation, instrumental assessments need to be performed on a more consistent basis as infection prevention protocols evolve.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)336-341
Number of pages6
JournalArchives of physical medicine and rehabilitation
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2022


  • COVID-19
  • Rehabilitation
  • Speech-language pathology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rehabilitation
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation


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