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Prevalence of Aspiration and Laryngeal Penetration in Patients with Unilateral Vocal Fold Motion Impairment

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The adverse consequences of aspiration in regard to patient health and quality of life are well documented. It is generally accepted that the probability of aspiration is increased in patients with unilateral vocal fold motion impairment, however, the incidence and proposed mechanism of aspiration vary depending on the reported series. We reviewed the cine or video pharyngoesophagographic findings in patients with documented unilateral vocal fold motion impairment, identified through the Johns Hopkins Hospital Swallowing Center database, to determine the prevalence and cause of aspiration and laryngeal penetration. Aspiration and laryngeal penetration were identified in 38% and 12% of patients, respectively. Aspiration resulted from impaired airway protection, not from esophageal obstruction with laryngeal ``spill-over.'' The number and degree of impairments directly correlated with probability of aspiration. Obstruction potentiated the likelihood of aspiration. Video pharyngoesophagography accurately identifies patients at risk for aspiration.

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Heitmiller, R., Tseng, E. & Jones, B. Prevalence of Aspiration and Laryngeal Penetration in Patients with Unilateral Vocal Fold Motion Impairment. Dysphagia 15, 184–187 (2000).

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