Posterior Tongue Tie, Base of Tongue Movement, and Pharyngeal Dysphagia: What is the Connection?


Ankyloglossia, or tongue tie, and its impact on the oral phase of feeding has been studied and debated for decades. However, the impact of posterior tongue ties on the pharyngeal phase of swallowing is not well documented in the literature. A videofluoroscopic swallow study (VFSS) allows for visualization of the oral, pharyngeal, and esophageal phases of the swallow. When decreased base of tongue movement, impaired pharyngeal pressure generation, and presence of pharyngeal residue are noted during a VFSS, a neurologic etiology can be suspected. However, in the setting of a normal MRI with normal motor development, other etiologies need to be explored. If it is not neurologic, could it be anatomic? We present a 21-month-old patient with significant pharyngeal phase dysphagia which was most saliently characterized by impaired base of tongue movement, poor pressure generation, and diffuse residue resulting in aspiration. He was eventually diagnosed with a posterior tongue tie and underwent a frenulectomy. Results via subsequent VFSS revealed significant improvement in base of tongue movement, pharyngeal pressure generation, and pharyngeal constriction, resulting in efficient movement of the bolus through the pharynx into the esophagus, no nasopharyngeal regurgitation, no aspiration, and near resolution of his pharyngeal dysphagia. Patients with impaired base of tongue movement and impaired pressure generation resulting in pharyngeal residue in the setting of a normal neurologic workup could possibly present with a posterior tongue tie which should be examined and included in the differential diagnosis.

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Nikhila Raol is supported by the American Society of Pediatric Otolaryngology Career Development Award. There is no conflict of interest pertaining to the award. The parents of LM signed an “Authorization to Release Protected Health Information for a Case Report.” Our IRB acknowledged this study with a Non-Human Subjects Research Determination form.


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Correspondence to Laura Brooks.

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Brooks, L., Landry, A., Deshpande, A. et al. Posterior Tongue Tie, Base of Tongue Movement, and Pharyngeal Dysphagia: What is the Connection?. Dysphagia 35, 129–132 (2020).

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  • Dysphagia
  • Ankyloglossia
  • Feeding
  • Quality of life
  • Pediatrics