, Volume 31, Issue 1, pp 24–32 | Cite as

Dysphagia in Parkinson’s Disease

  • Inga Suttrup
  • Tobias WarneckeEmail author
Review Article


More than 80 % of patients with Parkinson’s disease (PD) develop dysphagia during the course of their disease. Swallowing impairment reduces quality of life, complicates medication intake and leads to malnutrition and aspiration pneumonia, which is a major cause of death in PD. Although the underlying pathophysiology is poorly understood, it has been shown that dopaminergic and non-dopaminergic mechanisms are involved in the development of dysphagia in PD. Clinical assessment of dysphagia in PD patients is challenging and often delivers unreliable results. A modified water test assessing maximum swallowing volume is recommended to uncover oropharyngeal dysphagia in PD. PD-specific questionnaires may also be useful to identify patients at risk for swallowing impairment. Fiberoptic endoscopic evaluation of swallowing and videofluoroscopic swallowing study are both considered to be the gold standard for evaluation of PD-related dysphagia. In addition, high-resolution manometry may be a helpful tool. These instrumental methods allow a reliable detection of aspiration events. Furthermore, typical patterns of impairment during the oral, pharyngeal and/or esophageal swallowing phase of PD patients can be identified. Therapy of dysphagia in PD consists of pharmacological interventions and swallowing treatment by speech and language therapists (SLTs). Fluctuating dysphagia with deterioration during the off-state should be treated by optimizing dopaminergic medication. The methods used during swallowing treatment by SLTs shall be selected according to the individual dysphagia pattern of each PD patient. A promising novel method is an intensive training of expiratory muscle strength. Deep brain stimulation does not seem to have a clinical relevant effect on swallowing function in PD. The goal of this review is giving an overview on current stages of epidemiology, pathophysiology, diagnosis, and treatment of PD-associated dysphagia, which might be helpful for neurologists, speech-language therapists, and other clinicians in their daily work with PD patients and associated swallowing difficulties. Furthermore areas with an urgent need for future clinical research are identified.


Dysphagia Parkinson’s disease Swallowing Treatment Pathophysiology Diagnosis 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that there are no conflicts of interest.


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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of NeurologyUniversity Hospital of MuensterMünsterGermany

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