Discriminant ability of the Eating Assessment Tool-10 to detect aspiration in individuals with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis

Neurogastroenterol Motil. 2016 Jan;28(1):85-90. doi: 10.1111/nmo.12700. Epub 2015 Oct 28.


Background: Oropharyngeal dysphagia is prevalent in individuals with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) leading to malnutrition, aspiration pneumonia, and death. These factors necessitate early detection of at-risk patients to prolong maintenance of safe oral intake and pulmonary function. This study aimed to evaluate the discriminant ability of the Eating Assessment Tool (EAT-10) to identify ALS patients with unsafe airway protection during swallowing.

Methods: Seventy ALS patients completed the EAT-10 survey and underwent a standardized videofluoroscopic evaluation of swallowing. Two blinded raters determined airway safety using the Penetration Aspiration Scale (PAS). A between groups anova (safe vs penetrators vs aspirators) was conducted and sensitivity, specificity, area under the curve (AUC), and likelihood ratios calculated.

Key results: Mean EAT-10 scores for safe swallowers, penetrators, and aspirators (SEM) were: 4.28 (0.79) vs 7.10 (1.79) vs 20.50 (3.19), respectively, with significant differences noted for aspirators vs safe swallowers and aspirators vs penetrators (p < 0.001). The EAT-10 demonstrated good discriminant ability to accurately identify ALS penetrator/aspirators (PAS ≥3) with a cut off score of 3 (AUC: 0.77, sensitivity: 88%, specificity: 57%). The EAT-10 demonstrated excellent accuracy at identifying aspirators (PAS ≥6) utilizing a cut off score of 8 (AUC: 0.88, sensitivity: 86%, specificity: 72%, likelihood ratio: 3.1, negative predictive value: 95.5%).

Conclusions & inferences: The EAT-10 differentiated safe vs unsafe swallowing in ALS patients. This patient self-report scale could represent a quick and meaningful aide to dysphagia screening in busy ALS clinics for the identification and referral of dysphagic patients for further instrumental evaluation.

Keywords: EAT-10; Eating Assessment Tool; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; aspiration; dysphagia; screen.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis / complications
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis / diagnosis*
  • Area Under Curve
  • Barium Sulfate
  • Contrast Media
  • Deglutition Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Deglutition Disorders / etiology
  • Female
  • Fluoroscopy
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Respiratory Aspiration / diagnosis*
  • Respiratory Aspiration / etiology
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Video Recording


  • Contrast Media
  • Barium Sulfate