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Chest. 2001 Oct;120(4):1190-5.

Chronic aspiration without gastroesophageal reflux as a cause of chronic respiratory symptoms in neurologically normal infants.

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Department of Pediatrics, Ohio State University College of Medicine, Columbus, OH 43205, USA.



To describe 13 neurologically normal infants with chronic respiratory symptoms who had swallowing dysfunction with silent chronic aspiration without gastroesophageal reflux (GER) as the cause of their respiratory symptoms.


Infants with neurologic disorders and infants with GER are known to have chronic respiratory symptoms. Isolated swallowing dysfunction and aspiration without GER in neurologically normal infants have not been widely reported.


Retrospective chart review.


A tertiary pulmonary-care center at a children's hospital.


One hundred twelve otherwise healthy infants referred for respiratory symptoms who underwent esophageal pH studies and videofluoroscopic swallow studies (VSSs).


The records of infants referred between January 1997 and December 1999 to the Department of Pediatric Pulmonology who underwent 24-h esophageal pH monitoring and VSS as part of an evaluation for recurrent stridor and/or wheezing were reviewed. Significant GER was diagnosed if the percentage of time with esophageal pH < 4 was > 6%. Infants included in the study presented with recurrent respiratory symptoms, were born at term, were neurologically normal, had normal results of esophageal pH studies, but had abnormal results of VSSs (n = 13).


All 13 infants presented with a variety of recurrent respiratory symptoms including wheezing and intermittent stridor. Ten of 13 infants had spitting and/or choking episodes with feeding. The mean (+/- SD) age at the onset of symptoms was 2.0 +/- 1.6 months, and the mean age at VSS was 5.9 +/- 3.4 months. All 13 infants had normal results of 24-h esophageal pH studies but had abnormal results for VSSs. All infants had evidence of swallowing dysfunction and direct silent aspiration of liquids with thin consistency. Six infants also were aspirating liquids with thick and/or semi-thick consistencies. None of the infants had evidence of structural anomalies on esophagograms. Nine infants were treated with thickened food, and in four infants oral feedings were stopped. Three of these infants required nasojejunal feeding, and one infant required gastrostomy tube feeding. VSSs were repeated every 3 months. In all infants, swallowing dysfunction resolved within 3 to 9 months. All infants tolerated the resumption of oral feeding. Videofluoroscopic documentation of the resolution of aspiration was followed by the resolution of respiratory symptoms in all infants.


There is a subgroup of otherwise healthy infants, presenting with wheeze and/or stridor, who have isolated swallowing dysfunction and silent aspiration as the cause of their respiratory symptoms.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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