Oropharyngeal dysphagia in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis alters quality of life

J Oral Rehabil. 2013 Mar;40(3):199-204. doi: 10.1111/joor.12019. Epub 2012 Dec 27.


Dysphagia is one of the most important complications encountered in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Our aim was to determine whether oropharyngeal dysphagia impacted the quality of life (QoL) of patients with ALS. Thirty consecutive patients were recruited (31-82 years, 18 men). Swallowing function was evaluated using a standardised videofluoroscopic barium swallow. All the patients completed a specific questionnaire on quality of life in dysphagia (SWAL-QoL) immediately after the videofluoroscopy. The results of dysphagia outcome severity scale separated 14 patients with oropharyngeal dysphagia and 16 with normal swallowing function. There was no difference in the average age, weight and body mass index of the two groups (dysphagic patients: 68 ± 11 kg versus non-dysphagic patients: 69 ± 14 kg). Most of the dysphagic patients had a bulbar affection based on their Norris scores which determine the importance of cranial nerves illness (20 ± 8), significantly lower than those of the non-dysphagic patients (35 ± 5) (P < 0·0001). There was no difference in the neurological peripheral symptoms evaluated by Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Functional Rating Scale scores (dysphagic patients: 26 ± 7 versus non-dysphagic patients: 27 ± 8) (ns). The swallowing quality of life questionnaire revealed that the dysphagic patients had significant burden (P < 0·001). They were affected by the necessity to applied a food selection (P < 0·01), by the increase in eating duration (P < 0·05) and described a decrease in eating desire (P < 0·05). They complained of fear regarding the risk of dysphagia (P < 0·05). They also described difficulties with oral communication (P < 0·001). All of those complained about dysphagia which impacted directly mental health (P < 0·05) and social life (P < 0·05). In conclusion, oropharyngeal dysphagia is a common symptom accompanying ALS, which alters the patient's QoL, especially social health.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis / complications
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis / physiopathology
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis / psychology*
  • Deglutition Disorders / etiology
  • Deglutition Disorders / physiopathology
  • Deglutition Disorders / psychology*
  • Female
  • Fluoroscopy / methods
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Quality of Life*
  • Risk Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires