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Is sensory-level electrical stimulation effective in cerebral palsy children with dysphagia? A randomized controlled clinical trial


Dysphagia is one of the common findings in children with cerebral palsy (CP). Electrical stimulation (ES) has been demonstrated to positively contribute to swallowing functions, particularly in adult patients with various neurological disorders. Therefore, the objective of this study was to assess the effects of sensory-level ES treatment combined with conventional dysphagia rehabilitation in pediatric age group CP patients who had any oropharyngeal dysphagia symptoms and/or findings. Participants were randomly assigned to either the experimental group (Group 1, n = 52) who underwent intermittent galvanic stimulation to bilateral masseter muscles for 5 days/week, for 4 weeks combined with conventional dysphagia rehabilitation or the control group (Group 2, n = 50) who received sham stimulation with conventional dysphagia rehabilitation. The experimental group achieved significantly more improvement in swallowing functions including drooling, tongue movements, chewing, eating large food ability, feeding duration, as well as dysphagia screen test and dysphagia level, compared to control group. This study suggested that sensory-level ES might be a useful and safe therapeutic modality to improve oropharyngeal symptoms, symptom severity and dysphagia level in children with CP and dysphagia. Further research is needed to determine the long-term effects of ES on dysphagia, especially in different neurological disorders such as CP.

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Correspondence to Ebru Umay.

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There is no conflict interest among the authors. Author EU declares that she has no conflict of interest. Author EG declares that she has no conflict of interest. Author EO declares that he has no conflict of interest. Author EUA declares that she has no conflict of interest.

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All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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Informed consent was obtained from the caregivers of all participants included in the study.

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Umay, E., Gurcay, E., Ozturk, E.A. et al. Is sensory-level electrical stimulation effective in cerebral palsy children with dysphagia? A randomized controlled clinical trial. Acta Neurol Belg 120, 1097–1105 (2020).

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  • Cerebral palsy
  • Deglutition
  • Deglutition disorder
  • Sensory-level electrical stimulation