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Swallowing impairment and pulmonary dysfunction in Parkinson's disease: the silent threats.

INTRODUCTION: Swallowing disorders and respiratory impairment are frequent in Parkinson's disease (PD) patients, and aspiration pneumonia remains the leading cause of death among these subjects.

OBJECTIVE: The objective of this study was to investigate whether there is an association between pulmonary impairment and swallowing dysfunction in PD patients.

METHODS: A cross-sectional study with a comparison group was conducted with PD patients. Subjects were submitted to demographic questionnaires and underwent spirometric and videofluorographic assessments. Significance level was considered at 95% (p<0.05).

RESULTS: Among 35 PD patients, 40% presented with swallowing complaints. However, 22% of the clinically asymptomatic patients presented airway food penetration when submitted to videofluoroscopy. In 20% of PD patients material entered the airways and there was contact with the vocal folds in 7%. However, there was an efficient cleaning with residue deglutition in almost all patients. No penetration/aspiration was detected among the controls. Respiratory parameters were below the normal predicted values in PD patients when compared to the healthy controls.

CONCLUSION: These data suggest an association between pulmonary dysfunction and swallowing impairment in PD patients; even in patients without swallowing complaints, impaired pulmonary function can be detected.

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