Pharyngeal aspiration in normal adults and patients with depressed consciousness

Am J Med. 1978 Apr;64(4):564-8. doi: 10.1016/0002-9343(78)90574-0.


A sensitive technic using indium111 chloride was devised to investigate the occurrence of pharyngeal aspiration. Twenty normal subjects and 10 patients with depressed consciousness were studied. Forty-five per cent of the normal subjects aspirated during deep sleep. Normal subjects who did not aspirate were noted to sleep poorly. Seventy per cent of the patients with depressed consciousness aspirated. Aspiration of pharyngeal secretions occurs frequently in patients with depressed sensorium and also in normal adults during deep sleep. Bacterial pneumonia may result when aspirated bacteria are not effectively cleared. This may result when clearance mechanisms are impaired or when they are overwhelmed by large volumes of aspirated secretions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cognition Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Consciousness Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Indium
  • Inhalation*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pharynx / diagnostic imaging
  • Pharynx / metabolism
  • Pharynx / physiology*
  • Pharynx / physiopathology
  • Pneumonia / etiology
  • Radioisotopes
  • Radionuclide Imaging
  • Respiration*
  • Sleep


  • Radioisotopes
  • Indium