Temporal measures of oropharyngeal swallowing events identified using ultrasound imaging in healthy young adults.

Elaine Kwong, Phoebe Tsz-Ching Shek, Man Tak Leung, Yongping Zheng, Wilson Yiu Shun Lam

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review


Swallowing is a complex process that involves precise coordination among oral and pharyngeal structures, which is essential to smooth transition of bolus and adequate airway protection. Tongue base retraction and hyolaryngeal excursion are two significant swallowing movements, and their related events can be examined using ultrasound imaging, which is physically and radioactively non-invasive. The present study aimed to 1) establish the temporal sequences and timing of swallowing events identified using ultrasound imaging, and 2) investigate the variability of the above temporal sequences and 3) investigate the effect of bolus type on the variability of temporal sequences in non-dysphagic individuals. Forty-one non-dysphagic young adults of both genders (19 males and 22 females) participated in the study. Ultrasound images were acquired mid-saggitally at their submental region during swallowing of boluses with different volume (i.e. 5mL or 10mL) and consistencies (i.e. IDDSI Levels 0 and 4). Timing and sequence of six events 1) displacement onset (TBOn), 2) maximum displacement (TBMax) and 3) displacement offset of tongue base retraction (TBOff); and, 4) displacement onset (HBOn), 5) maximum displacement (HBMax) and 6) displacement offset of the hyoid bone excursion (HBOff) were extracted from the ultrasound images. Out of the 161 swallows, 85.7% follow a general sequence of HBOn < TBOn < HBMax < TBMax < HBOff < TBOff. Percentage adherence to six anticipated paired-event sequences was studied. Results suggested the presence of individual variability as adherence ranged from 75.8% to 98.1% in four of the anticipated sequences, leaving only two sequences (HBOn < TBMax and TBMax < HBOff) obligatory (i.e. 100% adherence). For non-obligatory sequences, it was found that bolus type may have an effect on the level of adherence. Findings of the present study lay the groundwork for future studies on swallowing using ultrasound imaging and also the clinical application of ultrasonography.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0270704
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 28 Jun 2022


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