Oropharyngeal dysphagia, free water protocol and quality of life: An update from a prospective clinical trial

Martha Karagiannis, Tom C. Karagiannis

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Oropharyngeal dysphagia, typically associated with older adults, represents a spectrum of swallowing disorders with potentially serious complications and a negative impact on quality of life. A major complication of dysphagia is caused by aspiration, predominantly of thin liquids, which may cause aspiration pneumonia. Given that thin liquids are typically aspirated, the conventional therapy involves altering the diet to one consisting of modified solid consistencies and thickened fluids. While it is well known that this approach is appropriate for aspiration, it does represent difficulties with compliancy and quality of life. We have undertaken a relatively large scale clinical trial to investigate the relationships between the effects of free access to water and the development of aspiration, aspects of hydration and issues related to quality in people with dysphagia. Along with clinical observations and findings from others we have previously stratified people with dysphagia, namely those that are immobile or who have low mobility and severe degenerative neurological dysfunction, at highest risk of developing aspiration pneumonia following intake of water. In the present study, we have extended our previous clinical results. Our findings indicate that following purposeful selection of people with dysphagia with their own mobility and relatively healthy cognitive function, free access to water did not result in aspiration pneumonia, improved measures of hydration and in particular, significantly increased quality of life when compared to a diet consisting of thickened fluids only. Overall, we conclude that in people with good mobility and cognitive ability, there is no need to deviate from the Frazier Rehabilitation Centre free water protocol, which allows for the provision of water to people with dysphagia with strict guidelines particularly in relation to good physical ability.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)26-29
Number of pages4
JournalHellenic Journal of Nuclear Medicine
Issue numberSuppl 1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Dysphagia
  • Aspiration pneumonia
  • Thickened fluids
  • Quality of life
  • Free water protocol

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