Effectiveness of nurse-delivered stepwise swallowing training on dysphagia in patients with Alzheimer's disease: A multi-center randomized controlled trial

Int J Nurs Stud. 2024 Feb:150:104649. doi: 10.1016/j.ijnurstu.2023.104649. Epub 2023 Nov 22.


Background: Although swallowing exercises are a fundamental treatment for dysphagia, few studies have evaluated the effectiveness of swallowing training in patients with Alzheimer's disease.

Methods: We recruited 93 patients with Alzheimer's disease from three hospitals in Guangdong, China. This was a parallel armed randomized controlled trial that randomly assigned patients to intervention (n = 48) and control (n = 45) groups. The intervention group adopted systematic stepwise swallowing training for four weeks based on routine dysphagia care. The control group implemented routine dysphagia care, including diet and posture management and health education about swallowing dysfunction. The swallowing function was the primary outcome, which was assessed using the Water Swallowing Test and Standard Swallowing Assessment. An abnormal eating behavior questionnaire was used to assess the incidence of aberrant eating behavior in patients with Alzheimer's disease. The Mini-Nutritional Assessment Short Form and Barthel index were adopted to evaluate the nutritional status and ability to carry out daily activities between groups. SPSS software was used to perform the chi-square test, t-test, and generalized estimation equation for data analysis.

Results: We analyzed the effects of the stepwise swallowing training program using the generalized estimating equation method. The intervention group exhibited greater improvements in their swallowing function (Water Swallowing Test: β = -3.133, 95 % CI: -4.113, -2.154, P < 0.001; Standard Swallowing Assessment: β = -5.813, 95 % CI: -7.782, -3.844, P < 0.001), abnormal eating behaviors (abnormal eating behavior questionnaire: β = -13.324, 95 % CI: -21.643, -5.005, P = 0.002), daily function (Barthel index: β = 11.280, 95 % CI: 4.021, 18.540, P = 0.002), and nutritional status (Mini-Nutritional Assessment Short Form: β = 2.402, 95 % CI: 1.313, 3.490, P < 0.001) over time than the routine-care group in the fourth week.

Conclusions: Stepwise swallowing training is a safe and effective intervention for managing dysphagia and other related symptoms in patients with Alzheimer's disease.

Keywords: Alzheimer's disease; Dysphagia; Randomized controlled trial; Swallowing training.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease*
  • Deglutition
  • Deglutition Disorders* / diagnosis
  • Deglutition Disorders* / therapy
  • Humans
  • Nutritional Status
  • Water


  • Water