Videofluoroscopic analyses of swallowing in survivors of traumatic cervical spinal cord injury (tCSCI) have been largely limited to case reports/series and qualitative observations. To elucidate the disrupted physiology specifically underlying dysphagia post-tCSCI, this prospective observational study analyzed videofluoroscopic swallow studies (recorded at 30 frames per second) across 20 tCSCI survivors. Norm-referenced measures of swallow timing or displacement, and calibrated area measures of laryngeal vestibule closure (LVC) were explored in relation to the severity of aspiration or pharyngeal residue. Videofluoroscopic performance was compared by injury level, surgical intervention, tracheostomy status, and in relation to clinical bedside assessments. Reduced pharyngeal constriction, delayed hyoid elevation, and impaired LVC characterized post-tCSCI dysphagia. Reduced extent of hyoid excursion and of pharyngoesophageal segment (PES) opening were not as prominent, only present in approximately half or less of the sample. Ten participants aspirated and 94% of aspiration events were silent. Severity of aspiration significantly correlated with pharyngeal constriction and prolonged pharyngeal transit times. Post-swallow residue correlated with delayed PES distention/closure and prolonged pharyngeal transit. Clinical inference regarding the integrity of the pharyngeal phase at bedside was limited; however, EAT-10 scores demonstrated promise as an adjuvant clinical marker of post-tCSCI dysphagia. This exploratory study further describes the pathophysiology underlying post-tCSCI dysphagia to promote deficit-specific rehabilitation and functional recovery.
- Deglutition disorders
- Spinal cord injury
- Videofluoroscopic swallow study
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Speech and Hearing