Alterations to Swallowing Physiology as the Result of Effortful Swallowing in Healthy Seniors

Sonja M. Molfenter, Chuan Ya Hsu, Ying Lu, Cathy L. Lazarus

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A significant proportion of healthy seniors report difficulty swallowing, thought to result from age-related decline in muscle bulk/function. Effortful Swallowing (ES) is used both as a compensatory maneuver to improve pharyngeal propulsion/clearance and has been proposed as an exercise to improve pharyngeal strength. This study sought to quantify the immediate kinematic, temporal, and functional changes during an ES maneuver to quantify its exercise potential to combat age-related changes in swallowing. Videofluoroscopy data were collected from 44 healthy seniors (21 male) over 65 years old (mean = 76.9, SD = 7.1). Each participant swallowed six 5 ml boluses of Varibar nectar-thick liquids: three with regular effort and three using ES. Individual swallows (n = 260) were measured on pharyngeal constriction, pharyngeal shortening, laryngeal closure duration, hyoid movement duration, UES opening duration, stage transition duration, pharyngeal transit time, pharyngeal response duration, Normalized Residue Ratio Scale (NRRS), and the Penetration–Aspiration Scale (PAS). Non-parametric Wilcoxon Rank Sum for repeated measures tested the effect of ES on each outcome. Exact p-values were calculated based on permutation methods, individual p values < 0.008 was deemed to be significant. The ES maneuver significantly prolonged all temporal variables. While we found no significant differences for pharyngeal constriction, significantly less (i.e., worse) pharyngeal shortening was observed in ES condition compared with regular effort swallows. Further, significantly worse pyriform sinus residue (NRRSv) was observed in the ES condition. No differences between ES and regular effort swallows were noted for pharyngeal constriction, NRRSv or PAS. We speculate that these negative manifestations of worse kinematics (less pharyngeal shortening) and function (increase in NRRSp) may be the result of forced volitional manipulation of swallowing in the ES condition in an otherwise normal elderly swallow.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)380-8
Number of pages9
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2017


  • Aging
  • Deglutition
  • Dysphagia
  • Effortful swallow
  • Kinematics
  • NRRS
  • Pharynx
  • Temporal

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology
  • Gastroenterology
  • Speech and Hearing


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