Treatment for dysphagia (swallowing difficulties) in hereditary ataxia

Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2015 Nov 13;2015(11):CD010169. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD010169.pub2.


Background: Hereditary ataxias are a heterogeneous group of disorders resulting in progressive inco-ordination. Swallowing impairment, also known as dysphagia, is a common and potentially life threatening sequel of disease progression. The incidence and nature of dysphagia in these conditions is largely unknown. The loss of an effective and safe swallow can dramatically affect the health and well-being of an individual. Remediation of difficulties of eating and drinking is an important goal in the clinical care of people with hereditary ataxia.

Objectives: To assess the effects of interventions for swallowing impairment (dysphagia) in people with hereditary ataxias.

Search methods: We searched the Cochrane Neuromuscular Disease Group Specialized Register, the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL), MEDLINE, EMBASE, CINAHL Plus, PsycINFO, and the Education Resources Information Center (ERIC) on 14 September 2015. We also searched Linguistics and Language Behavior Abstracts (LLBA), Dissertation Abstracts, and Trials Registries on 24 September 2015.

Selection criteria: We considered all randomised controlled trials (RCTs) and quasi-RCTs that compared treatments for hereditary ataxia with placebo or no treatment. We only included studies measuring dysphagia.

Data collection and analysis: Three review authors (ES, KJ, MK) independently screened all titles and abstracts. In the event of any disagreement or uncertainty over the inclusion of a particular paper, the review authors planned to meet and reach consensus.

Main results: We identified no RCTs from the 519 titles and abstracts screened. We excluded papers primarily for not including participants with a hereditary ataxia (that is, being focused on other neurological conditions), being theoretical reviews rather than intervention studies, or being neither randomised nor quasi-randomised trials.We identified five papers of various design that described treatment for dysphagia, or improvement to swallow as a by-product of treatment, in people with hereditary ataxia. None of these studies were RCTs or quasi-RCTs.

Authors' conclusions: There is an absence of any significant evidence supporting the use of any dysphagia intervention in hereditary ataxia. The lack of evidence highlights the critical need for well-controlled treatment trials in the field.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Deglutition Disorders / etiology
  • Deglutition Disorders / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Spinocerebellar Degenerations / complications*