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Huntington’s disease (HD) is a neurodegenerative disease characterized by increasing dysphagia as the disease progresses. Specific characteristics of the HD dysphagia are not well defined.
To characterize the swallowing disturbances of HD patients, to evaluate the feasibility of Fiberoptic Endoscopic Evaluation of Swallowing (FEES) in assessing dysphagia in HD patients, and to discern the relation between FEES findings and patients’ self-report on dysphagia symptoms and swallowing related quality of life (SWAL-QOL).
A retrospective case series in a tertiary referral center. All recruited HD patients underwent Bed Side Swallowing Evaluation (BSE), FEES, the Unified Huntington’s Disease Rating Scale (UHDRS), and the Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA). All completed the Swallowing Disturbances Questionnaire (SDQ) and the SWAL-QOL questionnaire.
Fourteen HD patients were recruited. All were able to complete the FEES study. The FEES demonstrated delayed swallowing reflex, solid food residues, and pre/post swallowing spillage in most patients (50%, 53.5%, 83.3%, and 87.5%, respectively). The mean SDQ score was 13.2. Significant correlations were found between the SWAL-QOL fear of eating score; the SDQ oral, pharyngeal, and total scores; and the FEES parameters of pureed and solid food bolus flow time. Significant correlations were also found between the total UHDRS score, the volitional cough score, and the SWAL-QOL disease burden score.
HD patients exhibit prominent unique oropharyngeal dysphagia features that may serve as a marker of disease progression. The FEES and the SDQ are valuable tools for detecting these features in HD patients with swallowing disturbance.
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