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Thirteenth Annual Meeting of the Dysphagia Research Society Tip Sheet

Johns Hopkins Medicine
Office of Corporate Communications
MEDIA CONTACT:  John M. Lazarou
PHONE:  410-502-8902
October 14, 2004

Tip Sheet From the Johns Hopkins Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Department for the Thirteenth Annual Meeting of the Dysphagia Research Society

This tip sheet highlights research from Johns Hopkins being presented at the annual meeting of the Dyspahgia Research Society (DRS).  The DRS is an international, multidisciplinary group of scientists and clinicians who study swallowing and its disorders.  The meeting will take place Thursday, Oct. 14, through Saturday, Oct. 16, in Montreal, Canada.

Swallowing Disorder Leading Factor in Death of Parkinson’s Disease Patients
Hopkins researchers have found that Parkinson’s disease (PD) patients have swallowing problems early on in their disease that often lead to aspirating food into the lungs.  If left untreated, the aspirated food can lead to pneumonia, the most common cause of death of people diagnosed with PD.

The study, which examined the swallowing process of 15 older people with PD (average age., 71), showed that swallowing was initiated late in the ingestion process after food had already started moving down into the throat.  The problem was worse when subjects ate foods that were the combinations of both liquids and solids.

Dysphagia More Common in Asians Following a Stroke
Asians who have a stroke are about one-third more likely to develop dysphagia (abnormal swallowing) than either blacks or whites, according to Hopkins researchers.  Investigators examined 5,068 Asians, 4,913 blacks, and 44,018 whites who suffered strokes in 2002 and were hospitalized in California.  Scientists also examined the prevalence of dysphagia in 131 Asians, 67 blacks and 1,389 whites hospitalized for Parkinson’s disease; and 141 Asians, 131 blacks and 1,369 whites hospitalized for oral cancer.  They found that Asians in these groups are not at a higher risk for dysphagia than blacks or whites.

Hopkins Scientists Discover Way to Curb Accidental Inhaling of Food:
Hopkins investigators have discovered that proper control of breathing can prevent the aspiration of food.  In experiments with 10 healthy people, the researchers found that the process of swallowing was always started as the subjects exhaled.  According to researchers, solid food ready for swallowing may be stored in the throat for up to 10 seconds before it is swallowed, creating a risk for inhaling the food instead.

As part of study, the subjects each ate small amounts of food coated with barium, a contrast agent that shows up on x-rays, revealing the outline of the esophagus.  “Video x-rays” were taken of the subjects as they chewed and swallowed food, and their stage of breathing was recorded.  The Hopkins team showed that if the subjects controlled their breathing during this period, there was little if any inhalation of air.  Instead, air was usually exhaled, pushing food away from the lungs, thus preventing aspiration.

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