The use of scintigraphy in the management of patients with pulmonary aspiration

Kenneth H. Silver, Douglas Van Nostrand

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Pulmonary aspiration was assessed using a scintigraphic swallowing procedure in 14 dysphagics in whom penetration of the larynx had been previously diagnosed. No patient had recent evidence of aspiration pneumonia. Imaging was performed during and following ingestion of a cupful of thin liquid admixed with between 1-2 mCi of Tc-99m sulfur colloid. Follow-up scans were obtained several hours later as needed to assess airway clearance. Five of the fourteen (36%) showed penetration distal to the trachea. Seven (50%) were indeterminate for aspiration, as isotope localized to the neck could not be clearly designated as being in either airway or foodway. Two subjects had negative studies. Of patients with subtracheal penetration, (1) fractions of the ingested material which were aspirated ranged from <1%-25%, and (2) elimination from airways was complete or near-complete by 3 hours. The presence of an immediate or delayed cough was noted but did not correlate with subtracheal aspiration. Based on the results of scintigraphy, 8 of 9 patients on some form of liquid restriction at the time of testing were allowed to ease restrictions. Five patients without prior liquid restriction were allowed to continue to drink. We propose that scintigraphy provides important data on airway penetration and clearance that is useful in the dietary management of dysphagic patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)107-115
Number of pages9
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 1994


  • Deglutition
  • Deglutition disorders
  • Liquid restriction
  • Pulmonary aspiration
  • Pulmonary disease
  • Scintigraphy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology
  • Gastroenterology
  • Speech and Hearing


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