Purpose: Patients with a neuromuscular disease (NMD) can present with dysarthria and/or dysphagia. Literature regarding prevalence rates of dysarthria and dysphagia is scarce. The purpose of this study was to determine prevalence rates, severity and co-presence of dysarthria and dysphagia in adult patients with NMD.
Method: Two groups of adult patients with NMD were included: 102 consecutive outpatients (the "unselected cohort") and 118 consecutive patients who were referred for multidisciplinary assessment (the "selected cohort"). An experienced speech-language pathologist examined each patient in detail.
Results: The pooled prevalence of dysarthria was 46% (95% CI: 36.5-55.9) and 62% (95% CI: 53.3-70.8) in the unselected and selected cohorts, respectively. The pooled prevalence of dysphagia was 36% (95% CI: 27.1-45.7) and 58% (95% CI: 49.4-67.2) in the unselected and selected cohorts, respectively. There was a modest but significant association between the presence of dysarthria and dysphagia (rs = 0.40; p < 0.01). Although the dysphagia was generally mild, dysarthria was moderate to severe in 15% of the dysarthric patients.
Conclusion: The prevalence rates of dysarthria and dysphagia among patients with various types of NMD are high. Physicians should therefore be aware of this prevalence and consider referring NMD patients to a speech-language pathologist. IMPLICATONS OF REHABILITATION: Both dysarthria and dysphagia are highly prevalent among patients with neuromuscular diseases; moreover, although often mild, these disorders can occur relatively early in the course of the disease. Clinicians should routinely check for signs and symptoms related to dysarthria and/or dysphagia in patients who present with a neuromuscular disease, preferably using standardised instruments.
Keywords: Dysarthria; dysphagia; neuromuscular diseases.