Can We Ignore Laryngeal Penetration?

A recent retrospective study (DR Duncan et al. JPGN 2019; 68: 218-24) makes it clear that laryngeal penetration is an important finding when identified on a swallow study. The authors reviewed charts from 137 subjects (mean age 9 months) who had laryngeal penetration but not aspiration with a video swallow study (VSS).

Key findings:

  • 40% of patients with laryngeal penetration receiving thickening of feeds as treatment, 15% had a change in flow rate.  60% were maintained on thin liquids.
  • Thickening feeds was significantly associated with improvement in symptoms with OR 41.8.  91% of subjects with thickening had symptom improvement compared to 19% among group with no feeding intervention.
  • Subjects receiving a feeding intervention (thickening or change in flow rate) had decreased total  and pulmonary hospitalizations.  In contrast, in patients who did not have a feeding intervention, no significant decrease in hospitalization was noted. These data are tabulated in Table 3.  It is worth noting that those who had feeding intervention had higher risk of admission prior to feeding intervention, 0.69 compared to 0.53 for non-intervention group. Afterwards, the feeding intervention group  risk was  0.40 compared to 0.45 for the non-intervention group.
  • On followup VSS, 26% had evidence of aspiration.

One key point is that those with deep penetration were much more likely to have their feeds thickened/adjusted.

My take: This study makes it clear that all symptomatic children with laryngeal penetration should have adjustment in their feedings, most often thickening of their feeds.   These interventions appear to lower hospitalizations and are needed because in many cases the swallow dysfunction does not resolve or worsens.

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