Dysphagia in infants with single ventricle anatomy following stage 1 palliation: Physiologic correlates and response to treatment

Congenit Heart Dis. 2017 May;12(3):382-388. doi: 10.1111/chd.12456. Epub 2017 Feb 28.


Background: Deficits in swallowing physiology are a leading morbidity for infants with functional single ventricles and systemic outflow tract obstruction following stage 1 palliation. Despite the high prevalence of this condition, the underlying deficits that cause this post-operative impairment remain poorly understood.

Objective: Identify the physiologic correlates of dysphagia in infants with functional single ventricles and systemic outflow tract obstruction following stage 1 palliative surgery.

Methods: Postoperative fiberoptic laryngoscopies and videofluoroscopic swallow studies (VFSS) were conducted sequentially on infants with functional single ventricles following stage 1 palliative surgery. Infants were dichotomized as having normal or impaired laryngeal function based on laryngoscopy findings. VFSS were evaluated frame-by-frame using a scale that quantifies performance within 11 components of swallowing physiology. Physiologic attributes within each component were categorized as high functioning or low functioning based on their ability to support milk ingestion without bolus airway entry.

Results: Thirty-six infants (25 male) were included in the investigation. Twenty-four underwent the Norwood procedure and twelve underwent the Hybrid procedure. Low function physiologic patterns were observed within multiple swallowing components during the ingestion of thin barium as characterized by ≥4 sucks per swallow (36%), initiation of pharyngeal swallow below the level of the valleculae (83%), and incomplete late laryngeal vestibular closure (56%) at the height of the swallow. Swallowing deficits contributed to aspiration in 50% of infants. Although nectar thick liquids reduced the rate of aspiration (P = .006), aspiration rates remained high (27%). No differences in rates of penetration or aspiration were observed between infants with normal and impaired laryngeal function.

Conclusions: Deficits in swallowing physiology contribute to penetration and aspiration following stage 1 palliation among infants with normal and impaired laryngeal function. Although thickened liquids may improve airway protection for select infants, they may inhibit their ability to extract the bolus and meet nutritional needs.

Keywords: dysphagia; feeding; hypoplastic left heart syndrome; single ventricle; stage 1 palliation; swallowing.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Cardiac Surgical Procedures / adverse effects*
  • Deglutition / physiology
  • Deglutition Disorders / epidemiology
  • Deglutition Disorders / etiology*
  • Deglutition Disorders / physiopathology
  • Female
  • Fluoroscopy
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Heart Defects, Congenital / diagnosis
  • Heart Defects, Congenital / surgery*
  • Heart Ventricles / abnormalities*
  • Heart Ventricles / surgery
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Laryngoscopy
  • Male
  • Palliative Care*
  • Postoperative Complications / epidemiology
  • Postoperative Complications / etiology*
  • Postoperative Complications / physiopathology
  • Prevalence
  • Retrospective Studies
  • United States / epidemiology