Pharyngolaryngeal Sensory Deficits in Patients with Middle Cerebral Artery Infarction: Lateralization and Relation to Overall Dysphagia Severity
Background: Dysphagia is a frequent and dangerous complication of acute stroke. Apart from a well-timed oropharyngeal muscular contraction pattern, sensory feedback is of utmost importance for safe and efficient swallowing. In the present study, we therefore analyzed the relation between pharyngolaryngeal sensory deficits and post-stroke dysphagia (PSD) severity in a cohort of acute stroke patients with middle cerebral artery (MCA) infarction. Methods: Eighty-four first-ever MCA stroke patients (41 left, 43 right) were included in this trial. In all patients, fiberoptic endoscopic evaluation of swallowing (FEES) was performed according to a standardized protocol within 96 h after stroke onset. PSD was classified according to the 6-point fiberoptic endoscopic dysphagia severity scale. Pharyngolaryngeal sensation was semi-quantitatively evaluated by a FEES-based touch technique. Results: PSD severity was closely related to the pharyngolaryngeal sensory deficit. With regards to lateralization of the sensory deficit, there was a slight but significant preponderance of sensory loss contralateral to the side of stroke. Apart from that, right hemispheric stroke patients were found to present with a more severe PSD. Conclusions: This study provides evidence that an intact sensory feedback is of utmost importance to perform nonimpaired swallowing and highlights the key role of disturbed pharyngeal and laryngeal afferents in the pathophysiology of PSD.