Physiological Characteristics of Dysphagia Following Thermal Burn Injury
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The study aim was to document the acute physiological characteristics of swallowing impairment following thermal burn injury. A series of 19 participants admitted to a specialised burn centre with thermal burn injury were identified with suspected aspiration risk by a clinical swallow examination (CSE) conducted by a speech-language pathologist and referred to the study. Once medically stable, each then underwent more detailed assessment using both a CSE and fiberoptic evaluation of swallowing (FEES). FEES confirmed six individuals (32%) had no aspiration risk and were excluded from further analyses. Of the remaining 13, CSE confirmed that two had specific oral-phase deficits due to orofacial scarring and contractures, and all 13 had generalised oromotor weakness. FEES revealed numerous pharyngealphase deficits, with the major findings evident in greater than 50% being impaired secretion management, laryngotracheal edema, delayed swallow initiation, impaired sensation, inadequate movement of structures within the hypopharynx and larynx, and diffuse pharyngeal residue. Penetration and/or aspiration occurred in 83% (n = 10/ 12) of thin fluids trials, with a lack of response to the penetration/aspiration noted in 50% (n = 6/12 penetration aspiration events) of the cases. Most events occurred post swallow. Findings support the fact that individuals with dysphagia post thermal burn present with multiple risk factors for aspiration that appear predominantly related to generalised weakness and inefficiency and further impacted by edema and sensory impairments. Generalised oromotor weakness and orofacial contractures (when present) impact oral-stage swallow function. This study has identified a range of factors that may contribute to both oral- and pharyngeal-stage dysfunction in this clinical population and has highlighted the importance of using a combination of clinical and instrumental assessments to fully understand the influence of burn injury on oral intake and swallowing.
Clinical Sciences not elsewhere classified