Dysphagia in the high-risk infant: potential factors and mechanisms1–3

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Neonatal dysphagia, or abnormalities of swallowing, represent a major global problem, and consequences of dysfunctional feeding patterns carry over into infancy and toddler age groups. Growth, development, and independent feeding skills are all delayed among high-risk infants. Such a group comprises premature birth, low-birth-weight, congenital anomalies, perinatal asphyxia, postsurgical, and sepsis categories. The conflict between pathophysiologic and pragmatic feeding strategies remains a major conundrum and is largely due to a lack of validated diagnostic approaches amid heterogeneity of the patient phenotype. Thus, well-tested feeding management strategies that can be generalizable are lacking. Furthermore, the aerodigestive symptoms and signs, potential risk factors, and contributory etiologies remain nonspecific. This article presents mechanistic evidence related to the pathophysiologic basis of neonatal dysphagia as well as potential opportunities to improve feeding abilities and long-term development.

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