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How Swallow Pressures and Dysphagia Affect Malnutrition and Mealtime Outcomes in Long-Term Care


Malnutrition is a major cause of hospitalization for residents of long-term care facilities (LTC). Dysphagia is thought to contribute to malnutrition. Tongue weakness is suggested to predict poor food intake, longer meals, and dysphagia. We explored the relationships between tongue strength, dysphagia, malnutrition and mealtime outcomes in LTC residents. Data were collected from 639 LTC residents (199 male), aged 62–102 (mean 87). Maximum isometric tongue pressures (MIPs) and saliva swallow pressures (MSPs) were measured using the Iowa Oral Performance Instrument. Participants also completed the Screening Tool for Acute Neuro Dysphagia. Nutrition status was assessed using the Patient-Generated Subjective Global Assessment. A series of repeated meal observations provided measures of meal duration and calories consumed. Mean MIPs were 33 kPa (95% CI 29–37) and MSPs were 26 kPa (95% CI 23–29). The odds of showing signs of dysphagia were 3.7 times greater in those with MSPs less than 26 kPa (p < 0.05). The odds of being malnourished were almost double in those showing signs of dysphagia. Co-occurrence of dysphagia and malnutrition was seen in 29%. Residents with low MSPs also had significantly longer mealtime durations (MTD) (p < 0.05). Moreover, those with both low swallowing pressures and suspected dysphagia consumed fewer calories/minute (p < 0.05) and had significantly longer MTDs (p < 0.05). This study confirms associations between tongue weakness, signs of dysphagia, mealtime outcomes and malnutrition among LTC residents. These findings suggest that saliva swallow pressure measures may be helpful for early identification of dysphagia and nutritional risk in this population.

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This study was funded by Canadian Institute of Health Research (Grant Number MOP-136888).

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Correspondence to Ashwini M. Namasivayam-MacDonald.

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Conflict of interest

Heather Keller is a part of the Speaker’s Bureau for Nestle Health Science, Abbott Nutrition and Fresenius Kabi, and receives salary support from the Schlegel-University of Waterloo Research Institute for Aging. The remaining authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

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Namasivayam-MacDonald, A.M., Morrison, J.M., Steele, C.M. et al. How Swallow Pressures and Dysphagia Affect Malnutrition and Mealtime Outcomes in Long-Term Care. Dysphagia 32, 785–796 (2017).

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  • Deglutition
  • Dysphagia
  • Nutrition
  • Elderly
  • Tongue
  • Nursing home