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Application of the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) to people with dysphagia following non-surgical head and neck cancer management

Rebecca L Nund, Nerina A Scarinci, Bena Cartmill, Elizabeth C Ward, Pim Kuipers, Sandro V Porceddu
Dysphagia 2014, 29 (6): 692-703
The International Classification of Functioning, Disability, and Health (ICF) is an internationally recognized framework which allows its user to describe the consequences of a health condition on an individual in the context of their environment. With growing recognition that dysphagia can have broad ranging physical and psychosocial impacts, the aim of this paper was to identify the ICF domains and categories that describe the full functional impact of dysphagia following non-surgical head and neck cancer (HNC) management, from the perspective of the person with dysphagia. A secondary analysis was conducted on previously published qualitative study data which explored the lived experiences of dysphagia of 24 individuals with self-reported swallowing difficulties following HNC management. Categories and sub-categories identified by the qualitative analysis were subsequently mapped to the ICF using the established linking rules to develop a set of ICF codes relevant to the impact of dysphagia following HNC management. The 69 categories and sub-categories that had emerged from the qualitative analysis were successfully linked to 52 ICF codes. The distribution of these codes across the ICF framework revealed that the components of Body Functions, Activities and Participation, and Environmental Factors were almost equally represented. The findings confirm that the ICF is a valuable framework for representing the complexity and multifaceted impact of dysphagia following HNC. This list of ICF codes, which reflect the diverse impact of dysphagia associated with HNC on the individual, can be used to guide more holistic assessment and management for this population.


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