Diagnosis of Sarcopenic Dysphagia in the Elderly: Critical Review and Future Perspectives

Dysphagia. 2022 Oct;37(5):1093-1102. doi: 10.1007/s00455-021-10371-8. Epub 2021 Sep 17.


Sarcopenic dysphagia (SD) is swallowing difficulty associated with loss of generalized skeletal muscles and swallowing-related muscles. Diagnostic criteria for SD were suggested, yet there is a variability in instruments and cut-offs used. The aim of the current review is to critically evaluate tools used in diagnosis of sarcopenic dysphagia in the elderly. Comprehensive review of the literature was performed. Studies were qualitatively evaluated for the diagnostic tools used to make a diagnosis of "sarcopenic dysphagia" and compared to the known diagnostic criteria for SD and other accepted measures. Fourteen studies (N = 10,282) were selected from a search yield of 331 de-duplicated studies. Ninety-three percent of studies (13/14) were conducted in Japan. All subjects included were over the age of 65 years old (mean, 76.5 years). Various tools were used to assess sarcopenia including handgrip strength (14/14 of studies), followed by skeletal muscle mass/index (7/14), tongue pressure, gait speed, and calf circumference in 5/14 studies. The most commonly tool used for dysphagia and/or swallowing dysfunction was the food level intake scale (5/14 of studies) followed by the functional oral intake scale (3/14). The 100-mL water swallow test was used in 2 of the 14 included SD studies. Fiberoptic endoscopic evaluation of swallowing, videofluoroscopic swallowing study, EAT-10 questionnaire, and standardized swallow assessment were each used in only one SD study. Further research is required to validate SD diagnostic tools, establish cut-offs in different populations, and investigate their role in screening of dysphagia and swallowing dysfunction in the elderly.

Keywords: Dysphagia; Elderly; Review; Sarcopenia; Swallowing dysfunction.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Deglutition Disorders*
  • Hand Strength
  • Humans
  • Pressure
  • Sarcopenia* / complications
  • Sarcopenia* / diagnosis
  • Tongue