Electromyography and Mechanomyography Signals During Swallowing in Healthy Adults and Head and Neck Cancer Survivors

Dysphagia. 2017 Feb;32(1):90-103. doi: 10.1007/s00455-016-9742-6. Epub 2016 Aug 26.


Surface electromyography (sEMG) is used as an adjuvant to dysphagia therapy to demonstrate the activity of submental muscles during swallowing exercises. Mechanomyography (MMG) has been suggested as a potential superior alternative to sEMG; however, this advantage is not confirmed for signal acquired from submental muscles. This study compared the signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) obtained from sEMG and MMG sensors during swallowing tasks, in healthy participants and those with a history of head and neck cancer (HNC), a population with altered anatomy and a high incidence of dysphagia. Twenty-two healthy adults and 10 adults with a history of HNC participated in this study. sEMG and MMG signals were acquired during dry, thin liquid, effortful, and Mendelsohn maneuver swallows. SNR was compared between the two sensors using repeated measures ANOVAs and subsequent planned pairwise comparisons. Test-retest measures were collected on 20 % of participants. In healthy participants, MMG SNR was higher than that of sEMG for dry [t(21) = -3.02, p = 0.007] and thin liquid swallows [t(21) = -4.24, p < 0.001]. Although a significant difference for sensor was found in HNC participants F(1,9) = 5.54, p = 0.043, planned pairwise comparisons by task revealed no statistically significant difference between the two sensors. sEMG also showed much better test-retest reliability than MMG. Biofeedback provided as an adjuvant to dysphagia therapy in patients with HNC should employ sEMG technology, as this sensor type yielded better SNR and overall test-retest reliability. Poor MMG test-retest reliability was noted in both healthy and HNC participants and may have been related to differences in sensor application.

Keywords: Deglutition; Deglutition disorders; Electromyography; Head and neck cancer; Mechanomyography; Visual biofeedback.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cancer Survivors
  • Deglutition / physiology*
  • Deglutition Disorders / etiology
  • Deglutition Disorders / physiopathology
  • Deglutition Disorders / therapy*
  • Electromyography / methods*
  • Female
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / complications
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / physiopathology*
  • Healthy Volunteers
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Myography / methods*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Signal-To-Noise Ratio
  • Young Adult