Dysarthria and dysphagia are highly prevalent among various types of neuromuscular diseases

Disabil Rehabil. 2014;36(15):1285-9. doi: 10.3109/09638288.2013.845255. Epub 2013 Oct 23.


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.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Comorbidity
  • Deglutition Disorders* / diagnosis
  • Deglutition Disorders* / epidemiology
  • Deglutition Disorders* / etiology
  • Disability Evaluation
  • Dysarthria* / diagnosis
  • Dysarthria* / epidemiology
  • Dysarthria* / etiology
  • Female
  • Hospitals, University / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Netherlands / epidemiology
  • Neuromuscular Diseases / classification
  • Neuromuscular Diseases / complications*
  • Neuromuscular Diseases / epidemiology
  • Outpatients / statistics & numerical data
  • Prevalence
  • Referral and Consultation / statistics & numerical data
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Severity of Illness Index