Dysphagia associated with neurological disorders

Acta Otorhinolaryngol Belg. 1994;48(2):143-55.


Neurogenic dysphagia results from sensorimotor impairment of the oral and pharyngeal phases of swallowing due to a neurologic disorder. The symptoms of neurogenic dysphagia include drooling, difficulty initiating swallowing, nasal regurgitation, difficulty managing secretions, choke/cough episodes while feeding, and food sticking in the throat. If unrecognized and untreated, neurogenic dysphagia can lead to dehydration, malnutrition, and respiratory complications. The symptoms of neurogenic dysphagia may be relatively inapparent on account of both compensation for swallowing impairment and diminution of the laryngeal cough reflex due to a variety of factors. Patients with symptoms of oropharyngeal dysphagia should undergo videofluoroscopy of swallowing, which in the case of neurogenic dysphagia typically reveals impairment of oropharyngeal motor performance and/or laryngeal protection. The many causes of neurogenic dysphagia include stroke, head trauma, Parkinson's disease, motor neuron disease and myopathy. Evaluation of the cause of unexplained neurogenic dysphagia should include consultation by a neurologist, magnetic resonance imaging of the brain, blood tests (routine studies plus muscle enzymes, thyroid screening, vitamin B12 and anti-acetylcholine receptor antibodies), electromyography/nerve conduction studies, and, in certain cases, muscle biopsy or cerebrospinal fluid examination. Treatment of neurogenic dysphagia involves treatment of the underlying neurologic disorder (if possible), swallowing therapy (if oral feeding is reasonably safe to attempt) and gastrostomy (if oral feeding is unsafe or inadequate).

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain Injuries / complications
  • Central Nervous System Diseases / complications
  • Central Nervous System Diseases / physiopathology*
  • Cerebrovascular Disorders / complications
  • Deglutition Disorders / etiology
  • Deglutition Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Neuromuscular Diseases / complications