Absent Epiglottic Inversion as Seen on Flexible Endoscopic Evaluations of Swallowing (FEES) is Associated with a Gestalt Reduction in Swallowing Mechanics


Purpose: Epiglottic inversion, which provides one layer of the requisite protection of the airway during swallowing, is dependent on a number of biomechanical forces. The aim of this study was to examine the association between swallowing mechanics, as visualized during a Modified Barium Swallow (MBS) exam, and the rating of epiglottic inversion as seen on Flexible Endoscopic Evaluation of Swallowing (FEES). Methods: This study analyzed twenty-five adult outpatients referred for a simultaneous FEES/MBS exams. Each participant swallowed a 5 mL thin liquid bolus, which was the bolus size analyzed for this study ’s question. Epiglottic inversion, as seen on FEES, was rated by three independent raters. Additionally, twelve swallowing landmarks tracked the shape change of each participant’s swallow on the MBS video using a MatLab-specific tracking tool. Analyses were run to determine mean differences in swallowing shape change between the swallows across 3 groups: complete, reduced, and absent epiglottic inversion, as seen on FEES. Using a Computerized Analysis of Swallowing Mechanics (CASM), canonical variate analyses and discriminant function testing were carried out. Other swallowing mechanics were also analyzed for kinematic movements to isolate the function of the hyoid and larynx. A two-sample t-test was conducted to compare mean hyolaryngeal movement between complete and incomplete epiglottic inversion groups. Results: Overall swallowing shape changes were statistically significantly different between the absent, reduced, and complete epiglottic inversion groups on FEES. Canonical variate analyses revealed a significant overall effect of shape change between the groups (eigenvalue = 2.46, p < 0.0001). However, no statistically significant differences were found on hyoid excursion (p = 0.37) and laryngeal elevation (p = 0.06) kinematic measurements between patients with complete and incomplete epiglottic inversion on FEES. Conclusion: Epiglottic inversion on FEES is a valuable rating that infers reduced range of motion of structures that cannot be seen on FEES. This small sample of patients suggests that FEES ratings of absent epiglottic inversion may represent gestalt reduction in swallowing mechanics.

American Journal of Otolaryngology