The elderly are at an increased risk for development of dysphagia due to illnesses that affect the swallowing mechanism. The word dysphagia, which comes from the Greek words dys (difficulty) and phagia (to eat), refers to the sensation of food being delayed or hindered in its passage from the mouth to the stomach. There are two main types of dysphagia caused by problems with the mouth or throat, known as oropharyngeal dysphagia, or the esophagus (the tube that carries food from your mouth to your stomach), known as esophageal dysphagia. There are no standard algorithmic approaches for managing elderly patients with dysphagia; rather, goals and plans are individualized to fit given clinical scenarios.
Educational Goals / Teaching Points
The exhibit will list the imaging techniques that may be used in aging patients; mention the spectrum of common and uncommon or unexpected causes of dysphagia; and describe the imaging findings of disease entities that may produce oropharyngeal or esophageal dysphagia.
Key Anatomic/Physiologic Issues and Imaging Findings/Techniques
We discuss dysphagia in terms of techniques for imaging evaluation, common and uncommon causes (eg, swallowing dysfunction, motility abnormalities, diverticular disease, extrinsic processes, vascular phenomena, infection, strictures, neoplasms, foreign bodies, and postoperative changes), and relevant imaging findings.
Dysphagia evaluation and management are usually a multidisciplinary team effort and are based on careful history, differentiation of
oropharyngeal dysphagia from esophageal dysphagia and motor dysphagia from mechanical dysphagia, identifying the underlying
cause, ascertaining the degree of risk or presence of silent or overt aspiration, and defining the patients abilities and impairments
and the degree to which the impairments can be improved.