Background/aims: Swallows triggered by direct stimulation of pharyngeal structures may help to prevent aspiration by emptying the pharynx. The aims of this study were to compare the biomechanical events of the pharyngeal and primary swallow, determine the threshold volume of liquid required to trigger the pharyngeal swallows, and determine the effect of aging, position, and temperature on this threshold volume.
Methods: Concurrent manometry, video fluoroscopy, and video endoscopy were used to study young and elderly healthy volunteers.
Results: During pharyngeal swallows, in contrast to primary swallows, the free portion of the tongue did not make contact with the hard palate. In addition, pharyngeal swallows did not result in oral bolus clearance. All other biomechanical events, including deglutitive glottal function, were similar in both types of swallows. The threshold volume for pharyngeal swallows in young volunteers was significantly smaller than in the elderly (P < 0.01). Temperature and position did not have significant effects on threshold volume.
Conclusions: Swallowing is readily induced by water stimulation of the pharynx. Pharyngeal swallows do not induce lingual peristalsis or clearance of oral content. The threshold volume of the pharyngeal swallow is significantly higher in the elderly than in the young, but it is not affected by body position or bolus temperature.