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J Am Board Fam Med. 2007 Mar-Apr;20(2):144-50.

The prevalence of dysphagia in primary care patients: a HamesNet Research Network study.

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Department of Family Medicine, Medical College of Georgia, Augusta, GA 30912, USA.



A number of disorders cause dysphagia, which is the perception of an obstruction during swallowing. The purpose of this study was to determine the prevalence of dysphagia in primary care patients.


Adults 18 years old and older were the subjects of an anonymous survey that was collected in the clinic waiting room before patients were seen by a physician. Twelve family medicine offices in HamesNet, a research network in Georgia, participated.


Of the 947 study participants, 214 (22.6%) reported dysphagia occurring several times per month or more frequently. Those reporting dysphagia were more likely to be women (80.8% women vs 19.2% men, P = .002) and older (mean age of 48.1 in patients with dysphagia vs mean age of 45.7 in patients without dysphagia, P = .001). Sixty-four percent of patients with dysphagia indicated that they were concerned about their symptoms, but 46.3% had not spoken with their doctor about their symptoms. Logistic regression analyses showed that increased frequency [odds ratio (OR) = 2.15, 95% CI 1.41-3.30], duration (OR = 1.91, CI 1.24-2.94), and concern (OR = 2.64, CI 1.36-5.12) of swallowing problems as well as increased problems eating out (OR = 1.72, CI 1.19-2.49) were associated with increased odds of having talked to a physician.


This is the first report of the prevalence of dysphagia in an unselected adult primary care population. Dysphagia occurs commonly in primary care patients but often is not discussed with a physician.

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