Introduction: There has been little data reported about aspiration risk in elderly dysphagia patients. We analyzed the etiological distributions of dysphagia patients older than 75 years and explored their relationships with aspiration.
Material and Methods: A retrospective chart review was performed for dysphagia patients older than 75 years seen at the Department of Phoniatrics and Logopedics at the University Hospital Zurich between October 2008 and November 2011.
Results: Out of the 2158 patients seen in the clinic over this period, 312 (15%) of them suffered from dysphagia. Within this dysphagia group 71 (23%) patients were older than 75 years. The most frequent etiology within the elderly group was neurological problems with the incidence of 42%, followed by presbyphagia (31%) and structural problems (27%). Aspiration was detected in 45% of patients older than 75 years. The incidence of aspiration differed between the etiological groups: neurogenic dysphagia 57%, structural dysphagia 50% and presbyphagia 23%.
Discussion: 45% of our dysphagia patients older than 75 years suffered from aspiration, which may indicate aspiration to be an important consideration during the treatment and management of elderly dysphagia patients. Although aspiration was more frequently observed in neurogenic and structural dysphagia patients, its incidence in presbyphagia patients was also high, up to 23%. Therefore more attention may need to be paid to the examination and treatment of aspiration in presbyphagia patients than previously thought.