Dysphagia affects over 16 million people in the US, and over 40 million in Europe. Paradoxically, despite its high prevalence amongst the elderly, dysphagia is often overlooked in the clinical assessment of this patient group. Dr. Pere Clavé proposes that we approach oropharyngeal dysphagia as a geriatric symptom. Using videofluoroscopy, Clavé begins with a systematic demonstration of the different phases of swallowing. In dysphagic patients, the safety and efficacy of the swallowing process is impaired, resulting in pharyngeal residue and aspirations.
Synthesis of the videofluoroscopic data provides a robust means of quantifying and characterizing the swallowing patterns in normal and dysphagic elderly patients. In the final part of his talk, Clavé reviews how dysphagia affects nutritional status and increases the risk of further complications such as pneumonia. In light of the far-reaching consequences of swallowing disorders, Clavé encourages the implementation of a universal policy for dysphagia screening in elderly patients, particularly those with pneumonia.