How does endotracheal intubation cause dysphagia?

Updated: Mar 20, 2020
  • Author: Nam-Jong Paik, MD, PhD; Chief Editor: Elizabeth A Moberg-Wolff, MD  more...
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Answer

Endotracheal intubation also affects swallowing function, directly and indirectly. The direct effect of the endotracheal tube on laryngeal structures is caused by laryngeal trauma, which manifests as vocal-fold and supraglottic edema, granulation tissue in the posterior larynx, subluxation of one or both arytenoid cartilages, and permanent or temporary palsy of the recurrent laryngeal nerve. Supraglottic and glottic edema reduces the patient's ability to sense the presence of secretions in the larynx or hypopharynx, which in turn can inhibit the timely triggering of the pharyngeal swallow response, causing aspiration.

Indirect effects on swallowing caused by endotracheal intubation relate to the coordination required between respiration and the swallowing function. An increased respiratory rate in patients with suboptimal oxygenation can disrupt the regular swallowing and respiration pattern and predispose the patient to aspiration of saliva and secretions.

For example, continuous, positive airway pressure delays the latency of the swallow response and reduces the number of swallows, because it alters the peripheral sensory receptors that assist with the triggering of a pharyngeal swallow.


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