Issue N# 5 - 2003
Dysphagia, a geriatric point of view
Authors : P. Rumeau, B. Vellas (Toulouse)
Ref. : Rev Laryngol Otol Rhinol. 2003;124,5:331-334.
Article published in french
Downloadable PDF document french
Dysphagia is most common in geriatric medicine. Aspirations may cause chronic inflammatory syndrome or acute pneumonia or heart failure. At-risk patients should be recognised: some risks are caused by an acute condition, some by chronic disease or handicap. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common at-risk condition; it is causes a loss of the conscious part of mastication and early swallowing. Psychiatric disorders with anorexia should not be overlooked as a cause for dysphagia and malnutrition. Due to a longer life, elderly people are more likely to have multiple causes for dysphagia. Management of dysphagia in geriatric patients is sometimes curative but more often readaptative and palliative. It is not restricted to the time of the meals. It first starts with avoiding decubitus and maintaining a walking ability. Proper positioning in seats and bed involves an occupational therapist. The nutritionist selects tasty and appealing meals for each patient. Nurses detect acute confusion as opposed to, or in, dementia. The speech therapist takes charge in tutoring the staff in knowing what is the secure way to manage an assisted meal, and helps finding the best fitted texture for food and drink. Sometimes a proper rehabilitation will be feasible. Per endoscopic gastrostomies are mostly restricted to neuro-vascular patients and need discussed for their benefit/risk balance. The holistic approach needed to manage dysphagia in polypathology elderly patients calls for a "cultural" approach of the whole gerontologic team, never the less, accurate specialised diagnosis in mandatory.
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