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N Engl J Med. 1990 Aug 30;323(9):565-70.

Swallowing dysfunction in nephropathic cystinosis.

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Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, Warren Grant Magnuson Clinical Center, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892.



Nephropathic cystinosis causes renal failure in most patients at approximately 10 years of age. This can be prevented or retarded by cystine-depleting therapy with oral cysteamine. Many patients who do not receive adequate cysteamine therapy undergo renal transplantation, but the accumulation of cystine continues in other organs, resulting in various clinical abnormalities. We report age-related swallowing dysfunction in patients with nephropathic cystinosis.


We studied 43 patients with cystinosis (24 who had received a renal transplant and 19 who had not), 3 to 31 years of age. Oral motor function was assessed by a cranial-nerve oral sensorimotor examination, and an oral motor index was calculated for each patient. The oral phase of swallowing was assessed by ultrasonography, and the pharyngeal and esophageal phases were evaluated by videofluoroscopy.


Approximately half the patients were slow eaters. Oral motor dysfunction, reflected by a higher oral motor index, increased with age. Speech, oral structure and anatomy, and tongue and lip strength were particularly affected. Seven of nine patients 21 to 31 years old had abnormalities in all three phases of swallowing; the deficits were variable in younger patients. In 28 patients with cystinosis, the mean (+/- SD) duration of oropharyngeal swallowing for a dry swallow (3.06 +/- 1.06 seconds) was longer than in 14 normal subjects (1.89 +/- 0.57 seconds; P less than 0.001). This prolongation reflected impairment of the initiation phase of swallowing.


Swallowing dysfunction is a late complication of nephropathic cystinosis, probably related to muscular dysfunction. Changes in the consistency of foods, swallowing exercises, and long-term cysteamine therapy should be considered for patients with cystinosis who have difficulty in swallowing.

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