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A Review of Dysphagia Presentation and Intervention Following Traumatic Spinal Injury: An Understudied Population

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Abstract

Dysphagia is reported to be a common secondary complication for individuals with traumatic spinal injuries. Different etiologies of traumatic spinal injuries may lead to different profiles of swallowing impairment. We conducted a systematic review to determine the characteristics of dysphagia after traumatic spinal injury and to describe interventions currently used to improve swallowing function in this population. A comprehensive multiengine literature search identified 137 articles of which five were judged to be relevant. These underwent review for study quality, rating for level of evidence, and data extraction. The literature describing dysphagia after traumatic spinal injury was comprised predominantly of low-level evidence and single case reports. Aspiration, pharyngeal residue, and decreased/absent hyolaryngeal elevation were found to be common characteristics of dysphagia in this population. The most commonly used swallowing interventions included tube feeding, compensatory swallowing strategies, and steroids/antibiotics. Improvement in swallowing function following swallowing intervention was reported in all studies; however, there was no control for spontaneous recovery. The results demonstrate a need for high-quality research to profile the pathophysiology of dysphagia after traumatic spinal injury and controlled studies to demonstrate the efficacy of swallowing interventions in this population.

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Acknowledgments

We gratefully acknowledge Jessica Babineau, MLIS information specialist from Toronto Rehabilitation Institute, University Health Network, for her assistance with the development and execution of the literature search. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the Ministry.

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Correspondence to Teresa J. Valenzano.

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Valenzano, T.J., Waito, A.A. & Steele, C.M. A Review of Dysphagia Presentation and Intervention Following Traumatic Spinal Injury: An Understudied Population. Dysphagia 31, 598–609 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00455-016-9728-4

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00455-016-9728-4

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