Dysphagia Tests

What Is Dysphagia?

Dysphagia is the medical term for difficulty with swallowing. It can affect people of all ages, but is most common in elderly people. Swallowing difficulty can be caused by a variety of conditions, including stroke, cerebral palsy, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and head and neck cancer. Dysphagia can impair the ability to taste food, and can even make it difficult to chew and swallow food properly. In severe cases, dysphagia may lead to aspiration, a condition where food or liquids are inadvertently breathed into the lungs instead of being properly digested in the stomach.

Why A Dysphagia Test Is Needed

A dysphagia test is needed to diagnose swallowing difficulties before they lead to more serious health concerns. Because aspiration is one of the more serious consequences of dysphagia, a dysphagia test is important for detecting and treating swallowing difficulty before it leads to more dangerous outcomes.

Preparing For A Dysphagia Test

A dysphagia test is typically done in a hospital or specialist’s office. Patients will typically need to fast for a certain amount of time prior to the test, usually 6-8 hours. This is to ensure that the test results are not skewed by recently consumed food and beverages. Fasting prior to the test also ensures that the material used for the test is the same as that used during the swallowing process in the patient’s everyday life.

Types Of Dysphagia Tests

  • Videofluoroscopy
    Videofluoroscopy is an X-ray technique used to assess the swallowing mechanism. The patient is given a substance, usually a thick liquid, and X-ray images are taken as they swallow it. This test allows the specialist to assess the swallowing mechanism, including tongue and jaw motion, as well as how well the food or liquid passed through the esophagus to the stomach.
  • Manometry
    Manometry is a procedure used to measure the pressure and pattern of movement of the muscles used in the swallowing process. This test is able to detect abnormalities in the muscles or other areas of the swallowing mechanism that may be causing difficulty with swallowing.
  • Pharyngometry
    Pharyngometry is a procedure used to measure the shape and size of the patient’s throat and vocal cords. This test is often used in conjunction with manometry. It can be used to detect areas of narrowing or closure in the throat and vocal cords that may be causing difficulty in the swallowing process.
  • Endoscopy
    Endoscopy is a procedure that uses a small camera to look at the back of the throat and vocal cords. An endoscopy can be used to detect abnormalities in these areas that may be causing difficulty with swallowing.

Risks Of A Dysphagia Test

The risks of a dysphagia test are typically very small. There may be a risk of choking if the material used for the test is not swallowed properly. If the material does enter the lungs, it can lead to an infection such as aspiration pneumonia.

When Should You Have A Dysphagia Test?

If you have difficulty swallowing or are having trouble tasting food, you should talk to your doctor and ask if a dysphagia test is necessary. Your doctor will likely assess your symptoms and may refer you for a dysphagia test if they suspect a swallowing issue. If you have had a stroke or have one of the conditions listed above, your doctor is likely to refer you for a dysphagia test as soon as possible.