Prevalence and Management of Oropharyngeal Dysphagia in Patients with Severe Anorexia Nervosa: A Large Retrospective Review
Objective: Oropharyngeal dysphagia (OPD) refers to difficulty swallowing food or a liquid bolus from the oral and pharyngeal cavities into the esophagus and increases the risk of possibly life-threatening pneumonia. Little has been reported on OPD in adults with anorexia nervosa (AN). This study includes a description of OPD in severe AN and discusses potentially effective clinical management.
Method: Two hundred and six adults with severe AN, admitted over a five-year period to a national referral center specializing in the multidisciplinary medical stabilization of this population, were retrospectively evaluated by electronic database query and manual chart review. All patients whose initial medical assessment triggered a speech-language pathology (SLP) consultation, due to concerns for OPD, were reviewed in detail.
Results: Of the 206 total patients, 42 presented with symptoms of OPD and received SLP consultation. In the OPD cohort, 37 (88%) were women, with median age 32 years old, and mean admission weights of 57% ideal body weight (IBW) and body mass index (BMI) of 12 kg/m(2). Compared with those who did not have OPD, OPD patients had significantly lower BMI on admission (12 kg/m(2) vs. 13.1 kg/m(2), p < 0.001), longer stay (21 days vs. 14 days, p < 0.001), and were more medically compromised, including a greater incidence of refeeding hypophosphatemia (60.9% vs. 29.7%, p < 0.004).
Discussion: Clinical awareness of OPD may reduce the incidence of aspiration pneumonia and promote life-saving oral nutrition in patients with severe AN. Proper, timely evaluation and intervention may improve clinical outcomes.