Oropharyngeal dysphagia in multiple sclerosis

Neurosurgery Quarterly

Volume 3 - Number

Article Type: ---- Unspecified ----

Swallowing disorders are commonly observed in multiple sclerosis (MS) patients. The complications of dysphagia are common causes of morbidity and death in late stages of MS. However, dysphagia in MS usually receives limited attention. The purpose of this study was to determine the prevalence of different kinds of swallowing disorders in MS patients with mild to moderate disability; and to identify possible associations between clinical and demographic features of patients and the presence of dysphagia. The swallowing functions of 101 consecutive MS patients were screened by the Northwestern Dysphagia Patient Check Sheet. This is a screening test which identifies patients with pharyngeal stage disorders, aspiration, oral stage disorders and/or pharyngeal delay. 'Dysphagia' was defined as having at least one of the above mentioned four disorders. Among 101 MS patients, 32 (31.7%) were classified as having dysphagia. Pharyngeal stage disorders were the most common observed impairment (28.7%) and aspiration, oral stage disorders, and pharyngeal delay were observed in 6.9%, 5%, and 1% of patients, respectively. Dysphagic patients had a significantly longer disease duration (p = 0.031) and more neurological impairment in cerebellar functional system (p = 0.04) when compared with non-dysphagic patients. Moreover, dysphagia was significantly more prevalent in patients with more neurological disability as measured by Expanded Disability Status Scale (EDSS) scores (p = 0.04). These results emphasize the importance of assessment and management of swallowing function in MS patients, particularly in patients with a high EDSS score; more sever cerebellar dysfunction, and long disease duration.