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An electrophysiological approach to the diagnosis of neurogenic dysphagia: implications for botulinum toxin treatment


Objectives: Botulinum toxin (BTX) injection into the cricopharyngeal (CP) muscle has been proposed for the treatment of neurogenic dysphagia due to CP hyperactivity. The aim was to determine whether an electrophysiological method exploring oropharyngeal swallowing could guide treatment and discriminate responders from non-responders, based on the association of CP dysfunction with other electrophysiological abnormalities of swallowing.

Methods: Patients with different neurological disorders were examined: Parkinson disease, progressive supranuclear palsy, multiple system atrophy-Parkinson variant, multiple system atrophy cerebellar variant, stroke, multiple sclerosis and ataxia telangiectasia. All patients presented with clinical dysphagia, and with complete absence of CP muscle inhibition during the hypopharyngeal phase of swallowing. Each patient underwent clinical and electrophysiological investigations before and after treatment with BTX into the CP muscle of one side (15 units of Botox). Clinical and electrophysiological procedures were performed in a blind manner by two different investigators. The following electrophysiological measures were analysed: (1) duration of EMG activity of suprahyoid/submental muscles (SHEMG-D); (2) duration of laryngopharyngeal mechanogram (LPM-D); (3) duration of the inhibition of the CP muscle EMG activity (CPEMG-ID); and (4) interval between onset of EMG activity of suprahyoid/submental muscles and onset of laryngopharyngeal mechanogram (I-SHEMG-LPM).

Results: Two months after treatment, 50% of patients showed a significant improvement. Patients with prolonged or reduced SHEMG-D values and prolonged I-SHEMG-LPM values did not respond to BTX. Therefore, values for which BTX had no effect (warning values) were identified.

Conclusions: This electrophysiological method can recognise swallowing abnormalities which may affect the outcome of the therapeutic approach to dysphagia with BTX treatment.

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