The importance of the reproducibility of oropharyngeal swallowing in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. An electrophysiological study

G. Cosentino, E. Alfonsi, L. Mainardi, E. Alvisi, F. Brighina, F. Valentino, B. Fierro, G. Sandrini, G. Bertino, M. Berlangieri, R. De Icco, M. Fresia, A. Moglia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


OBJECTIVE: To investigate electrophysiologically the reproducibility of oropharyngeal swallowing in patients with ALS. METHODS: We enrolled 26 ALS patients, both with and without clinical signs of dysphagia, and 30 age-matched controls. The reproducibility of the electrophysiological signals related to the oral phase (electromyographic activity of the submental/suprahyoid muscles) and the pharyngeal phase (laryngeal-pharyngeal mechanogram) of swallowing across repeated swallows was assessed. To do this we computed two similarity indexes (SI) by using previously described mathematical algorithms. RESULTS: The reproducibility of oropharyngeal swallowing was significantly reduced both in patients with and in those without clinical signs of dysphagia, with more marked alterations being detected in the dysphagic group. The SI of both phases of swallowing, oral and pharyngeal, correlated significantly with dysphagia severity and disease severity. CONCLUSIONS: In ALS different pathophysiological mechanisms can alter the stereotyped motor behaviors underlying normal swallowing, thus reducing the reproducibility of the swallowing act. A decrease in swallowing reproducibility could be a preclinical sign of dysphagia and, beyond a certain threshold, a pathological hallmark of oropharyngeal dysphagia. SIGNIFICANCE: Electrophysiological assessment is a simple and useful tool for the early detection of swallowing abnormalities, and for the management of overt dysphagia in ALS.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)792-798
Number of pages7
JournalClinical neurophysiology : official journal of the International Federation of Clinical Neurophysiology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 1 2017


  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis/complications/diagnosis/physiopathology
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Deglutition
  • Deglutition Disorders/diagnosis/etiology/physiopathology
  • Electromyography/methods
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pharynx/physiopathology
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • ALS
  • Dysphagia
  • Electrophysiological evaluation of swallowing
  • Motor neuron disease
  • Similarity index


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