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Neurorehabil Neural Repair. 2016 Oct;30(9):866-75. doi: 10.1177/1545968316639129. Epub 2016 Apr 6.

Pharyngeal Electrical Stimulation in Dysphagia Poststroke: A Prospective, Randomized Single-Blinded Interventional Study.

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University of Manchester, Salford, UK Salford Royal Foundation Trust, Salford, UK.
University of Manchester, Salford, UK.
University of Manchester, Salford, UK Salford Royal Foundation Trust, Salford, UK


Background Pharyngeal electrical stimulation (PES) appears to promote cortical plasticity and swallowing recovery poststroke. Objective We aimed to assess clinical effectiveness with longer follow-up. Methods Dysphagic patients (n = 36; median = 71 years; 61% male) recruited from 3 trial centers within 6 weeks of stroke, received active or sham PES in a single-blinded randomized design via an intraluminal pharyngeal catheter (10 minutes, for 3days). The primary outcome measure was the Dysphagia Severity Rating (DSR) scale (<4, no-mild; ≥4, moderate-severe). Secondary outcomes included unsafe swallows on the Penetration-Aspiration Scale (PAS ≥ 3), times to hospital discharge, and nasogastric tube (NGT) removal. Data were analyzed using logistic regression. Odds/hazard ratios (ORs/HRs) >1 for DSR <4, hospital discharge, and NGT removal and OR <1 for PAS ≥3, indicated favorable outcomes for active PES. Results Two weeks post-active PES, 11/18 (61%) had DSR <4: OR (95% CI) = 2.5 (0.52, 14). Effects of active versus sham for secondary outcomes included the following: PAS ≥3 at 2 weeks, OR (95% CI) = 0.61 (0.27, 1.4); times to hospital discharge, 39 days versus 52 days, HR (95% CI) = 1.2 (0.55, 2.5); NGT removal 8 versus 14 days, HR (95% CI) = 2.0 (0.51, 7.9); and DSR <4 at 3 months, OR (95% CI) = 0.97 (0.13, 7.0). PES was well tolerated, without adverse effects or associations with serious complications (chest infections/death). Conclusions Although the direction of observed differences were consistent with PES accelerating swallowing recovery over the first 2 weeks postintervention, suboptimal recruitment prevents definitive conclusions. Our study design experience and outcome data are essential to inform a definitive, multicenter randomized trial.


dysphagia; electrical stimulation; neurostimulation; pharynx; rehabilitation; stroke

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