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Dysphagia. 2003 Spring;18(2):85-91.

Sequence variability during hypopharyngeal bolus transit.

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  • 1Department of Otolaryngology, University of California, Davis Medical Center, Sacramento, California 95817, USA.


The pharyngeal phase of deglutition is considered to occur in a reflexive, preprogrammed fashion. Previous studies have determined a general sequence of events based on the mean timing of bolus transit and swallowing gestures. Individual variability has not been studied, however. The purpose of this study was to determine the amount of sequence variability that normally occurs during the hypopharyngeal phase of deglutition. Dynamic swallow studies from 60 normal volunteers were evaluated and event sequence variability was determined for 12 two-event sequences during swallowing of three bolus sizes. There was found to be some variability in event sequences for almost all events evaluated except for the following: (1) arytenoid cartilage elevation always began prior to opening of the upper esophageal sphincter, (2) the sphincter always opened prior to the arrival of the bolus at the sphincter, (3) larynx-to-hyoid approximation always occurred after the onset of upper esophageal sphincter opening, and (4) maximum pharyngeal constriction always occurred after maximal distension of the upper esophageal sphincter. Variability was more common during swallowing of the smallest bolus size. This information may be helpful in evaluating event coordination in patients with dysphagia.

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