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Stroke. 2003 May;34(5):1252-7. Epub 2003 Apr 3.

Early assessments of dysphagia and aspiration risk in acute stroke patients.

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Department of Stroke Medicine, Guy's King's & St. Thomas' School of Medicine, King's College, London, UK.



Dysphagia is common after stroke and is a marker of poor prognosis. Early identification is important. This article reviews the merits and limitations of various assessment methods available to clinicians.


An electronic database search was performed of MEDLINE, EMBASE, and the Cochrane database using such terms as stroke, aspiration, dysphagia, and assessment; extensive manual searching of articles was also conducted.


Bedside tests are safe, relatively straightforward, and easily repeated but have variable sensitivity (42% to 92%), specificity (59% to 91%), and interrater reliability (kappa=0 to 1.0). They are also poor at detecting silent aspiration. Videofluoroscopy gives anatomic and functional information and allows testing of therapeutic techniques. However, swallowing is assessed under ideal conditions that are different from clinical settings, and reliability is often poor (kappa=0 to 0.75) in the absence of assessor training. Fiberoptic endoscopy allows swallow assessment and sensory testing but requires specialized staff and equipment. Oxygen desaturation during swallowing may be predictive of aspiration (sensitivity, 73% to 87%; specificity, 39% to 87%) but is more useful in combination with bedside testing than in isolation. Other methods of swallow testing are invasive and require specialized staff and equipment.


Although bedside tests remain an important early screening tool for dysphagia and aspiration risk, further refinements are needed to improve their accuracy.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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