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Dysphagia. 2013 Sep;28(3):404-12. doi: 10.1007/s00455-013-9448-y. Epub 2013 Feb 16.

Unilateral superior laryngeal nerve lesion in an animal model of dysphagia and its effect on sucking and swallowing.

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Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, 98 N. Broadway, Suite 409, Baltimore, MD 21231, USA.


We tested two hypotheses relating to the sensory deficit that follows a unilateral superior laryngeal nerve (SLN) lesion in an infant animal model. We hypothesized that it would result in (1) a higher incidence of aspiration and (2) temporal changes in sucking and swallowing. We ligated the right-side SLN in six 2-3-week-old female pigs. Using videofluoroscopy, we recorded swallows in the same pre- and post-lesion infant pigs. We analyzed the incidence of aspiration and the duration and latency of suck and swallow cycles. After unilateral SLN lesioning, the incidence of silent aspiration during swallowing increased from 0.7 to 41.5%. The durations of the suck containing the swallow, the suck immediately following the swallow, and the swallow itself were significantly longer in the post-lesion swallows, although the suck prior to the swallow was not different. The interval between the start of the suck containing a swallow and the subsequent epiglottal movement was longer in the post-lesion swallows. The number of sucks between swallows was significantly greater in post-lesion swallows compared to pre-lesion swallows. Unilateral SLN lesion increased the incidence of aspiration and changed the temporal relationships between sucking and swallowing. The longer transit time and the temporal coordinative dysfunction between suck and swallow cycles may contribute to aspiration. These results suggest that swallow dysfunction and silent aspiration are common and potentially overlooked sequelae of unilateral SLN injury. This validated animal model of aspiration has the potential for further dysphagia studies.

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