Objective To investigate immediate changes in hyolaryngeal movement and swallowing function after a cycle of neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES) on both submental and throat regions and submental placement alone in patients with dysphagia.Methods Fifteen patients with dysphagia were recruited. First, videofluoroscopic swallowing study (VFSS) was performed before NMES. All patients thereafter received a cycle of NMES by 2 methods of electrode placement: 1) both submental and throat regions and 2) submental placement alone concomitant with VFSS. The Penetration-Aspiration Score (PAS) and the NIH-Swallowing Safety Scale (NIH-SSS) were measured for swallowing function.Results During swallowing, hyolaryngeal descent significantly occurred by NMES on both submental and throat regions, and anterior displacement of hyolaryngeal complex was significant on submental placement alone. NMES on submental placement alone did not change the PAS and NIH-SSS. However, NMES on both submental and throat regions significantly reduced the NIH-SSS, although it did not change the PAS. Patients with no brainstem lesion and with dysphagia duration of <3 months showed significantly improved the NIH-SSS.Conclusion Immediate hyolaryngeal movement was paradoxically depressed after NMES on both submental and throat regions with significant reductions in the NIH-SSS but not the PAS, suggesting improvement in pharyngeal peristalsis and cricopharyngeal functions at the esophageal entry rather than decreased aspiration and penetration. The results also suggested that patients with dysphagia should be carefully screened when determining motor-level NMES.
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