• Vol. 30 No. 2, 148–154
  • 15 March 2001

The Impact of Swallowing Disorders in the Elderly

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ABSTRACT

Introduction: Swallowing disorders are common in the elderly but its prevalence is often underestimated. They can result in increased morbidity and mortality.

Methods: This article summarises the findings of selected published papers in major international journals indexed on Medline on swallowing using the key words—swallowing, dysphagia, aged, geriatrics and deglutition.

Results: There are age-related changes in the oral, pharyngeal and oesophageal functions. In the elderly, central nervous system diseases such as stroke, parkinsonism, dementia, medications, local oral and oesophageal factors are common causes of swallowing dysfunction. Swallowing disorders in the elderly are associated with increased mortality and morbidity. Aspiration, dehydration, pneumonia, malnutrition, functional decline and institutionalisation are often encountered in the elderly with dysphagia. There is a choice of different interventions available to reduce morbidity and mortality arising from swallowing impairments, and improving their quality of life.

Conclusion: The effective management of swallowing impairment in the elderly requires a multidisciplinary team approach.


In 1898, Bastian first reported on the case of a man who had been admitted to hospital with hemiplegia and aphasia, but who had transient difficulty in deglutition. Necropsy revealed that apart from two limited lesions in the left hemisphere, the patient’s brain was normal.

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