Effect of nasal continuous positive airway pressure on the pharyngeal swallow in neonates

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Feeding neonates orally while on nasal continuous positive airway pressure (nCPAP) is a common practice. We hypothesize that pressurized airflow provided by nCPAP will alter the swallowing mechanism in neonates, increasing the risk of aspiration during oral feeding.


Infants receiving nCPAP with a RAM cannula and tolerating at least 50% of their feeding orally were included in the study (one term; six preterm infants). Each participant underwent a videofluoroscopic swallow study while on nCPAP and off nCPAP. A non-parametric signed-rank test was used for paired data.


The incidence of deep penetration (P = 0.03) and aspiration (P = 0.01) decreased significantly off-nCPAP compared with on-nCPAP. However, the incidence of mild penetration (P = 0.65) and nasopharyngeal reflux (P = 0.87) remained the same under both conditions.


Oral feeding while on-nCPAP significantly increases the risk of laryngeal penetration and tracheal aspiration events. We recommend caution when initiating oral feedings on nCPAP.

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