Assessing Hyolaryngeal Excursion: Comparing Quantitative Methods to Palpation at the Bedside and Visualization During Videofluoroscopy

Danielle Brates, Sonja M. Molfenter, Susan L. Thibeault

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: Hyolaryngeal excursion (HE) is typically assessed via palpation during clinical swallowing exams (CSE) or visually during videofluoroscopy (VFSS). Minimal evidence exists to support the use of these perceptual methods for judging HE. We investigated whether binary judgment of HE differentiates quantitative measures of hyoid movement, using frame-by-frame VFSS analysis to measure anatomically scaled peak hyoid positions. Methods: Medical records of patients who received a CSE and VFSS within a 24-h period were reviewed. Clinician ratings of HE (‘reduced’ or ‘normal’) were collected from CSE and VFSS reports, along with rater experience. Five ml puree swallows were extracted from each VFSS for randomized, blinded analysis. Peak hyoid position from C4 was captured in anterior, superior, and hypotenuse positions and expressed relative to C2–C4 length. T-test comparisons of hyoid positions between patients judged to have reduced versus normal HE on palpation and VFSS were conducted. Results: Eighty-seven patients (56 male, mean age 61) met criteria. Peak anterior hyoid position was significantly different between patients judged to have reduced (mean = 89.2% C2–C4) and normal (mean = 110.6% C2–C4) HE on palpation (p = 0.001). Further analysis revealed no effect of clinician experience on differentiation of objective measures based on palpation. No differences were found across any objective measures when compared to clinician VFSS ratings. Conclusions: Clinicians appeared to be able to differentiate peak anterior hyoid movement but not superior or hypotenuse movement on palpation. On VFSS visualization, no significant differences were found between swallows judged to have reduced versus normal HE in any directional dimension. While perceptual methods may contribute to clinical decision-making, clinicians should remain cautious when making judgments about HE using these methods.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)298-307
Number of pages10
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2018


  • Clinical swallowing evaluation
  • Deglutition
  • Deglutition disorders
  • Dysphagia
  • Hyolaryngeal excursion
  • Palpation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology
  • Gastroenterology
  • Speech and Hearing


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