Patients' awareness of symptoms of dysphagia

J Am Med Dir Assoc. 2006 Nov;7(9):587-90. doi: 10.1016/j.jamda.2006.08.002.


Objectives: To assess geriatric patients' assessment of their clinical symptoms of dysphagia by means of a customized dysphagia screening tool and the usefulness of this assessment to health care professionals.

Design: The screening tool was distributed to an appropriate cohort and the entries correlated with results of standard speech-language pathology clinical assessments.

Setting: A large long-term care/subacute rehabilitation facility.

Participants: There were 199 new admissions screened. The patients included 74 (37.2%) males and 125 (60.8%) females. Patients' ages ranged from 50 to 98 with the mean age of 79.9 years.

Measurements: The screening tool used requires yes/no patient responses to 9 clinical indicators of dysphagia: difficulty keeping liquids in the mouth; coughing after drinking; shortness of breath while drinking; voice change after drinking; coughing after eating; shortness of breath after eating; food getting stuck in the mouth/throat when eating; voice change after eating; difficulty with saliva. After completing the questionnaire, the speech-language pathologist then conducted a standard bedside swallowing examination using the same 9 indicators.

Results: The findings suggest that although patients are less discriminating than clinicians in recognizing swallowing problems, the screening tool as a generalized indicator of potential for dysphagia is consistent and reliable. Individual items should not be used as indicators of dysphagia, but as a whole, the screening tool completed by patients is a reliable indicator of potential for dysphagia.

Conclusion: Patients' awareness of their own swallowing impairment represents an important aspect of functional recovery. The findings of the study indicate that when patients self-identify a swallowing problem, the speech-language pathologist also identifies the existence of a problem, although not the same problem identified by the patient, with the same intensity or with the same manifestation.

Publication types

  • Validation Study

MeSH terms

  • Aged / physiology
  • Aged / psychology
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Awareness*
  • Cough / etiology
  • Deglutition Disorders / complications
  • Deglutition Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Deglutition Disorders / psychology*
  • Drinking Behavior / physiology
  • Dyspnea / etiology
  • Feeding Behavior / physiology
  • Feeding Behavior / psychology
  • Female
  • Geriatric Assessment / methods
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mass Screening / methods*
  • Mass Screening / psychology
  • Mass Screening / standards
  • Middle Aged
  • Referral and Consultation
  • Rehabilitation Centers
  • Self Care / methods
  • Self Care / psychology
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Speech-Language Pathology / methods
  • Speech-Language Pathology / standards
  • Surveys and Questionnaires / standards*
  • Voice Disorders / etiology