To assess the prevalence of dysphagia and its typical findings in unselected "real-world" Parkinson patients using an objective gold-standard method. This was a prospective, controlled, cross-sectional study conducted in 119 consecutive Parkinson patients of all stages independent of subjective dysphagia. Patients and 32 controls were clinically and endoscopically examined by flexible endoscopic evaluation of swallowing (FEES) to evaluate the deglutition with regard to three consistencies (water, biscuit, and bread). Typical findings of dysphagia like penetration and aspiration, residues, and leakage were assessed. Dysphagia was common in Parkinson patients and occurred in all, even early, disease stages. Only 5% (6/119) of patients showed a completely unremarkable deglutition. Aspiration was seen in 25% (30/119) of patients and always related to water. Residues occurred in 93% (111/119), most commonly for bread. Leakage was much less frequent and was found in only 3-18%, depending on consistency. In a significant fraction of patients, objective dysphagia was not subjectively perceived. A total of 16% of asymptomatic patients suffered from critical aspiration. Significant swallowing deficiencies already occurred in early disease. Aspiration was found in 4 of 20 (20%) patients with disease duration of less than 2 years. Seven of 57 patients (12%) with Hoehn and Yahr stage 2 suffered from severe aspiration. Given the high frequency of critical aspiration in Parkinson disease, these patients should be evaluated early for dysphagia to avoid complications and recommend an adequate therapy. FEES is a simple, cost efficient, minimally invasive method that is ideally suited for this purpose.
Keywords: Aspiration; Deglutition; Deglutition disorders; FEES; Parkinson disease; Prevalence.