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Assessing Hyolaryngeal Excursion: Comparing Quantitative Methods to Palpation at the Bedside and Visualization During Videofluoroscopy

  • Brates, Danielle1, 2
  • Molfenter, Sonja M.1
  • Thibeault, Susan L.2
  • 1 NYU Steinhardt, Department of Communicative Sciences and Disorders, 665 Broadway, 9th Floor, New York, NY, 10012, USA , New York (United States)
  • 2 Wisconsin Institutes for Medical Research (WIMR), Division of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, BLDG. 1485, 1111 Highland Avenue, Madison, WI, 53705-2275, USA , Madison (United States)
Published Article
Springer US
Publication Date
Jul 24, 2018
DOI: 10.1007/s00455-018-9927-2
Springer Nature


PurposeHyolaryngeal excursion (HE) is typically assessed via palpation during clinical swallowing exams (CSE) or visually during videofluoroscopy (VFSS). Minimal evidence exists to support the use of these perceptual methods for judging HE. We investigated whether binary judgment of HE differentiates quantitative measures of hyoid movement, using frame-by-frame VFSS analysis to measure anatomically scaled peak hyoid positions.MethodsMedical records of patients who received a CSE and VFSS within a 24-h period were reviewed. Clinician ratings of HE (‘reduced’ or ‘normal’) were collected from CSE and VFSS reports, along with rater experience. Five ml puree swallows were extracted from each VFSS for randomized, blinded analysis. Peak hyoid position from C4 was captured in anterior, superior, and hypotenuse positions and expressed relative to C2–C4 length. T-test comparisons of hyoid positions between patients judged to have reduced versus normal HE on palpation and VFSS were conducted.ResultsEighty-seven patients (56 male, mean age 61) met criteria. Peak anterior hyoid position was significantly different between patients judged to have reduced (mean = 89.2% C2–C4) and normal (mean = 110.6% C2–C4) HE on palpation (p = 0.001). Further analysis revealed no effect of clinician experience on differentiation of objective measures based on palpation. No differences were found across any objective measures when compared to clinician VFSS ratings.ConclusionsClinicians appeared to be able to differentiate peak anterior hyoid movement but not superior or hypotenuse movement on palpation. On VFSS visualization, no significant differences were found between swallows judged to have reduced versus normal HE in any directional dimension. While perceptual methods may contribute to clinical decision-making, clinicians should remain cautious when making judgments about HE using these methods.

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