Dysphagia—A Common, Transient Symptom in Critical Illness Polyneuropathy: A Fiberoptic Endoscopic Evaluation of Swallowing Study*

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Objectives:Critical illness polyneuropathy is a common disorder in the neurological ICU. Dysphagia is well known to deteriorate outcome in the ICU. The prevalence of dysphagia in critical illness polyneuropathy is not known. The aim of this study was to evaluate the prevalence of dysphagia in critical illness polyneuropathy using fiberoptic endoscopic evaluation of swallowing.Design:Prospective, cohort study.Setting:Neurological rehabilitation ICU.Patients:Twenty-two patients with critical illness polyneuropathy.Interventions:Clinical swallowing examination and serial fiberoptic endoscopic evaluation of swallowing (days 3, 14, and 28 after admission).Measurements and Main Results:Swallowing of saliva, pureed consistencies, and liquids was tested using fiberoptic endoscopic evaluation of swallowing at three different time points. The penetration-aspiration scale by Rosenbek et al and the secretion severity rating scale by Murray et al were used for grading. Functional outcome after rehabilitation was assessed using the functional independence measure.: Pathologic swallowing was found in 20 of 22 patients (91%). Hypesthesia of laryngeal structures was found in 17 of 22 patients (77%) during the first fiberoptic endoscopic evaluation of swallowing. Over the 4-week follow-up period, laryngeal hypesthesia resolved in 75% of affected cases. Pureed consistencies were swallowed safely in 18 of 22 cases (82%), whereas liquids and saliva showed high aspiration rates (13 of 17 [78%] and 10 of 22 [45%], respectively). Swallowing function recovered completely in 21 of 22 (95%) within 4 weeks.Conclusions:Dysphagia is frequent among patients with critical illness polyneuropathy treated in the ICU. Old age, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, the mode of mechanical ventilation, the prevalence of tracheal tubes, and behavioral “learned nonuse” may all be contributing factors for the development of dysphagia in critical illness polyneuropathy. Complete recovery occurs in a high percentage of affected individuals within 4 weeks.

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