JOURNAL ARTICLE
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Impaired laryngopharyngeal sensitivity in patients with COPD: the association with swallow function.

Research indicates that patients with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) have increased aspiration risk. Several factors may pre-dispose a patient to aspiration including a reduction in laryngopharyngeal sensitivity (LPS). Reduced LPS has been associated with increased aspiration risk in pathologies including stroke; however, this has not been examined in COPD. This study aims to explore possible associations between LPS and swallowing function in COPD patients, and determine whether a LPS predictive value may be used as a method of evaluating dysphagia risk in this patient population. Twenty participants with COPD underwent LPS discrimination testing, respiratory function testing, self-reporting swallowing questionnaire, clinical swallowing examination, and fibre-optic endoscopic evaluation of swallowing (FEES). Participants with COPD demonstrated impaired LPS defined by elevated laryngeal adductor reflex thresholds and high incidence of pharyngeal residue on FEES. Positive correlations were identified between their clinical swallowing examination and FEES results for the presence of laryngeal penetration/aspiration (p < 0.04), vallecular residue (p < 0.01), and piriform residue (p < 0.01). In conclusion, COPD patients have reduced laryngopharyngeal mechanosensitivity and impaired swallowing function characterized primarily by pharyngeal stasis. The combination of these deficits may place patients with COPD at increased aspiration risk due to lack of detection of pharyngeal residue and subsequent inhalation of pharyngeal contents.

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