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Cold liquid feeding improves pharyngeal swallowing in dysphagic neonates

08 Oct 2018

Cold liquid stimulation produces positive short-term effects on pharyngeal swallowing in preterm infants with dysphagia, according to the results of a pilot study. Specifically, the intervention reduces airway compromise when compared with room temperature liquid swallows.

The study included nine preterm infants (mean gestational age at birth, 30 weeks and 2 days) with clinical symptoms of dysphagia (mean day of life at the time of study 59 days). All infants underwent a videofluoroscopic swallow study (VFSS) to visualize the pharyngeal phase of swallowing while being fed room temperature liquid (20–25 °C) vs cold liquid (4–9 °C).

A total of five swallows were evaluated under each feeding condition. Cold vs room temperature liquid swallows significantly improved swallowing dysfunctions directly affecting airway protection, namely deep penetration (p=0.007) and aspiration (p=0.002).

On the other hand, no significant differences between the two feeding conditions were observed in nasopharyngeal reflux (p=0.084) and mild penetration (p=0.824).

The present data confirm that short duration of cold liquid feeding improves the pharyngeal swallowing mechanism in preterm infants with dysphagia, researchers said. This demonstrates the potential of using cold liquid as an alternative to thickened liquid to prevent airway compromise.

However, further investigation is warranted to examine the sustained effects of such a strategy before introduction to clinical practice, they added.

Researchers highlighted the importance of identifying new treatment options for dysphagic preterm infants, as approximately 70 percent of them will be diagnosed with oral, pharyngeal and/or oesophageal phase dysphagia, leading to adverse developmental and medical outcomes.

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