Swallow Event Sequencing: Comparing Healthy Older and Younger Adults

Erica G. Herzberg, Cathy L. Lazarus, Catriona M. Steele, Sonja M. Molfenter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Previous research has established that a great deal of variation exists in the temporal sequence of swallowing events for healthy adults. Yet, the impact of aging on swallow event sequence is not well understood. Kendall et al. (Dysphagia 18(2):85–91, 2003) suggested there are 4 obligatory paired-event sequences in swallowing. We directly compared adherence to these sequences, as well as event latencies, and quantified the percentage of unique sequences in two samples of healthy adults: young (< 45) and old (> 65). The 8 swallowing events that contribute to the sequences were reliably identified from videofluoroscopy in a sample of 23 healthy seniors (10 male, mean age 74.7) and 20 healthy young adults (10 male, mean age 31.5) with no evidence of penetration–aspiration or post-swallow residue. Chi-square analyses compared the proportions of obligatory pairs and unique sequences by age group. Compared to the older subjects, younger subjects had significantly lower adherence to two obligatory sequences: Upper Esophageal Sphincter (UES) opening occurs before (or simultaneous with) the bolus arriving at the UES and UES maximum distention occurs before maximum pharyngeal constriction. The associated latencies were significantly different between age groups as well. Further, significantly fewer unique swallow sequences were observed in the older group (61%) compared with the young (82%) (χ2 = 31.8; p < 0.001). Our findings suggest that paired swallow event sequences may not be robust across the age continuum and that variation in swallow sequences appears to decrease with aging. These findings provide normative references for comparisons to older individuals with dysphagia.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)759-767
Number of pages9
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2018


  • Aging
  • Deglutition
  • Deglutition disorders
  • Dysphagia
  • Presbyphagia
  • Sequence
  • Swallowing
  • Temporal
  • Variation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology
  • Gastroenterology
  • Speech and Hearing


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