Content » Vol 40, Issue 9

Original report

Dysphagia in elderly nursing home residents with severe cognitive impairment can be attenuated by cervical spine mobilization

Ivan Bautmans, Jeroen Demarteau , Bjorn Cruts, Jean-Claude Lemper Geriatrics, Tony Mets
DOI: 10.2340/16501977-0243


Objective: To investigate the feasibility of cervical spine mobilization in elderly dementia patients with dysphagia, and its effect on swallowing capacity.
Methods: Fifteen nursing home residents (9 women, 6 men, age range 77–98 years) with severe dementia (median Mini Mental State Examination score=8/30, percentile (P)25–75=4–13) and known dysphagia participated in a randomized controlled trial with cross-over design. Cervical spine mobilization was administered by trained physiotherapists. Control sessions consisted of socializing visits. Feasibility (attendance, hostility, complications) and maximal swallowing volume (water bolus 1–20 ml) were assessed following one session and one week (3 sessions) of treatment and control.
Results: Ninety percent of cervical spine mobilization sessions were completed successfully (3 sessions could not be carried out due to the patient's hostility and 2 due to illness) and no complications were observed. Swallowing capacity improved significantly after cervical spine mobilization (from 3 ml (P25–75=1–10) to 5 ml (P25–75=3–15) after one session p=0.01 and to 10 ml (P25–75=5–20) (+230%) after one week treatment p=0.03) compared with control (no significant changes, difference in evolution after one session between treatment and control, p=0.03).
Conclusion: Cervical spine mobilization is feasible and can improve swallowing capacity in cognitively impaired residents in nursing homes. Given the acute improvements following treatment, it is probably best provided before meals.

Lay Abstract


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