, Volume 9, Issue 3, pp 174-179

Videofluoroscopic assessment of dysphagia in children with severe spastic cerebral palsy

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Abstract

Very little has been published about the characteristics and sequelae of dysphagia in children with neurological impairment. The swallowing difficulties encountered by children with spastic cerebral palsy are particularly debilitating and potentially lethal. However, aggressive evaluation and management of their feeding is typically deferred until they are medically or nutritionally compromised. Reports of the use of videofluoroscopy to analyze the swallowing patterns and presence or absence of aspiration in such children are rare. This paper describes the histories and analyzes the videofluorographic swallow studies of 22 patients with the primary diagnosis of severe spastic cerebral palsy. The ages of the subjects ranged from 7 months to 19 years. All had severe dysphagia and were slow, inefficient eaters. Fifteen patients (68.2%) demonstrated significant silent aspiration during their swallow study. Analysis of specific features of their swallowing patterns indicated that decreased or poorly coordinated pharyngeal motility was predictive of silent aspiration. Moderately to severely impaired oral-motor coordination was indicative of severity of feeding complications. Our data suggeest that early diagnostic workup, including baseline and comparative videofluoroscopic swallow studies, could be helpful in managing the feeding difficulties in these children and preventing chronic aspiration, malnutrition, and unpleasant lengthy mealtimes.