The utility of pitch elevation in the evaluation of oropharyngeal Dysphagia: preliminary findings


PURPOSE: To evaluate the utility of a pitch elevation task in the assessment of oropharyngeal dysphagia. METHOD: This study was a pilot prospective cohort study including 40 consecutive patients (16 male and 24 female) who were referred by their physician for a swallowing evaluation. Patients were evaluated with a noninstrumental clinical examination and a videofluoroscopic swallow study, and participated in a pitch elevation task during videofluoroscopic image acquisition. Relationships between pitch elevation measurements (acoustic and perceptual) and swallow parameters (penetration/aspiration and residue) were investigated. RESULTS: Results of this pilot study revealed that both maximum fundamental frequency (F(0)) and perceptual evaluation of pitch elevation independently significantly predicted Penetration-Aspiration Scale scores for thin liquid swallows (p = .01 and .03, respectively). Vocal range (average pitch to falsetto) was not sensitive in predicting likelihood of oropharyngeal dysphagia. CONCLUSIONS: Findings indicate that reduced pitch elevation can be indicative of reduced airway protection and swallowing impairment in some dysphagia patients and may be a useful supplement to dysphagia screening and diagnosis. Further investigation is warranted to determine the optimal utility of this procedure for different diagnostic categories of patients.

American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology