This study will identify clinical signs and symptoms critical for diagnosing swallowing
disorders and will characterize swallowing problems in various patient populations, such as
patients with Parkinson's disease, stroke, post-polio syndrome, multiple sclerosis and other
conditions that cause swallowing abnormalities.
Patients with swallowing difficulties who are enrolled in NIH neurology or speech pathology
protocols may be eligible for this study. Participants will undergo the following
1. Oral examination-A neurologist and speech pathologist examine the patient's swallowing
function. The patient is interviewed about difficulties with food intake, chewing and
swallowing during meals.
2. Ultrasound examination-Ultrasound creates image of areas inside the body using sound
waves. With the patient in a sitting position, a 3/4-inch transducer (device for
transmitting and receiving sound waves) is placed under the chin to visualize tongue
movements during swallowing.
3. Modified barium swallow-While standing or sitting, the patient swallows 1/2 teaspoon of
flavored barium (a radioactive substance) six times (a total of 3 teaspoons), while the
tongue and pharynx (tube leading from the mouth to the esophagus) are scanned and
videotaped. The barium is given in three consistencies-thin, medium and thick
4. Electromyography-A small plastic strip with wires attached is placed under the
patient's chin. The patient then swallows 1/2 ounce of barium three times in a row, and
the movement of the chin muscles during swallowing is displayed. Patients may also be
asked to swallow 5/8 cup of barium twice; once with the head tilted upward and once
with the head untilted.
Depending on the test results, patients may be asked to return for follow-up study and
Patients with neurological or neuromuscular conditions may be silent aspirators or at risk
for laryngeal penetration or aspiration because of abnormal oropharyngeal functioning and
thus are at risk for aspiration pneumonia and its serious effects. By providing
identification of the components of the abnormal swallow, and comparing swallowing across
tasks, we may avoid aspiration and can instruct patients on preventative or compensatory
We will study the oral, pharyngeal and upper esophageal phases of swallow using both
ultrasonic imaging and videofluoroscopy in patients with neurologic, genetic, systemic, and
neuromuscular conditions. Most of the previous studies of swallowing have utilized only one
diagnostic imaging technique and have thus provided an incomplete swallowing assessment as
each procedure has unique, but limited capabilities for visualizing the anatomy and
physiology of the swallow.
We also plan to compare discrete and continuous swallowing in these populations. While the
motor physiology for discrete swallowing (i.e., single swallow) has been well studied,
little is known about the details of oral, laryngeal, and pharyngeal coordination during
sequential swallowing as a part of continuous drinking--a common event in everyday eating.
A portion of the protocol will study the effects of fast-paced movement sequencing on the
coordination of the tongue, velum, larynx, and pharynx during continuous drinking.
Videofluoroscopy and ultrasound may be paired or used individually to collect data from
normal subjects and patients with known dysphagia while they perform sequential and
discrete swallowing tasks. A number of timing and displacement measurements of the
structures activated during these tasks will be made from the digitized video images of each
swallow, and analyses will be carried out subsequently across tasks and subjects.
Any Clinical Center inpatients and outpatients with known or suspected dysphagia on any
other NIH institute protocol can be included for study as well as patients who are
admitted specifically for this protocol.
Those patients at risk for oropharyngeal dysfunction will be screened initially by
completing a self-assessment swallowing questionnaire, and by an interview with staff
and/or family members. Patients who demonstrate appropriate signs and symptoms of
dysphagia and oral motor impairment on the screening assessment will be considered for the
Difficulty swallowing food or pills.
Changed swallowing ability.
Coughing or choking when eating.
Shortness of breath during swallowing.
Food backing up into the mouth or nasal passage.
Fever or voice changes after swallowing.
Pain when swallowing.
Unexplained loss of weight.
Patients who are severely demented or severely compromised will be excluded if they do not
have sufficient cognitive ability to follow directions.
Patients who are non-ambulatory will be excluded if they can not be braced or supported
within the fluoroscopy unit.
Highly agitated individuals will also be excluded if they are unable to remain confined in
Infants and children under age 3 will be excluded due to radiation risk on the developing