Oral and pharyngeal dysfunction is common in Parkinson's disease. To reveal the frequency of swallowing dysfunction and correlate swallowing dysfunction with locomotor disturbances, we studied 75 patients with Parkinson's disease staged I–IV according to the Hoehn and Yahr score. We assessed oral and pharyngeal swallow during optimal medication by a quantitative test of swallowing (the ROSS test) measuring the suction pressure, bolus volume, swallowing capacity, and time for important events in the swallowing cycle. We found abnormal results in 7/12 patients (58%) in stage 1 of the Hoehn and Yahr score, in 13/14 patients (93%) in stage 2, in 29/32 patients (91%) in stage 3, and in 16/17 patients (94%) in stage 4. Abnormal test results in stages, 1, 2, and 3 were seldom related to swallowing difficulties noticed by the patients. In advanced disease (Hoehn and Yahr stage 4), the abnormal results were often considerable, with swallowing difficulties obvious to the patient. Two of 17 patients coughed during or immediately after the test and 3/17 patients were unable to complete the test. The degree of swallowing disturbance increased during stress (forced, repetitive swallow). The Hoehn and Yahr score and the results in the ROSS test did not correlate, indicating that swallowing disturbances are due to nondopaminergic degeneration. Silent swallowing impairment may interfere with the nutrition and quality of life in Parkinson's disease, thus it is of interest to monitor this in clinical practice.
Parkinson's diseaseDeglutitionDeglutition disordersOral functionPharynxDiagnosisNoninvasive test