Objective: Swallowing mechanisms and neurogenic dysphagia have not been systematically studied by the EMG technique. It is desirable to evaluate neurogenic dysphagia for diagnostic and possibly for therapeutic purposes using electrophysiological methods.
Methods: The following methods were described: mechanical upward/downward movements of the larynx were detected using a piezoelectric sensor, while submental integrated EMG activity was recorded during dry and wet swallowing. The EMG activity of cricopharyngeal muscle of the upper oesophageal sphincter was also recorded in some normal subjects and patients. Piecemeal deglutition and the dysphagia limit were determined in all patients to detect dysphagia objectively. In this study 75 normal subjects and 177 neurological patients with various degrees of dysphagia were investigated.
Results: Voluntarily triggered oropharyngeal swallowing was commonly pathological in the majority of patients, with or without overt dysphagia. The dysphagia limit appeared to be an objective measure of the degree of dysphagia in more than 90% of patients. Pathophysiological mechanisms were different in at least three groups of patients with neurogenic dysphagia. In the group of patients with muscular disorders, laryngeal elevators were involved while the CP-sphincter was intact. The second group included patients with the clinical signs of corticobulbar fibre involvement such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and pseudobulbar palsy. In these patients, there was incoordination between paretic laryngeal elevators and hyperreflexic CP-sphincter. In the third group (patients with Parkinson's disease), the swallowing reflex was delayed and prolonged.
Conclusions: EMG methods described in the present study are very useful for the diagnosis of neurogenic dysphagia, objectively and quickly. They are important to understand the physiological mechanisms for deglutition and its disorders.