Botulinum toxin for upper oesophageal sphincter dysfunction in neurological swallowing disorders

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Background: Adequate upper oesophageal sphincter (UOS) opening is critical to safe and efficient swallowing due to the close proximity of the UOS to the airway entrance. Many people with neurological conditions, progressive and non-progressive, present with UOS dysfunction. The consequences for the person include difficulty swallowing food with subsequent choking and aspiration (passage of material into the trachea beyond the level of the true vocal cords). Clinical complications include aspiration pneumonia, weight loss, dehydration and malnutrition. Tube feeding is often indicated but is associated with increased mortality. Quality of life is also frequently impacted. A range of interventions exist that aim to improve UOS function and swallowing. These include compensatory strategies, rehabilitation techniques, pharmacological interventions and surgery. Over the last two decades, botulinum toxin has been gaining popularity as an intervention for UOS dysfunction, with some evidence to suggest that it is successful in improving swallow function. Despite a number of studies investigating its efficacy, there is a lack of consensus regarding whether this intervention is effective in improving swallowing for individuals with UOS dysfunction associated with neurological disease. Objectives: To establish the efficacy and safety of botulinum toxin use aimed at improving UOS dysfunction in people with swallowing difficulties (dysphagia) associated with non-progressive and progressive neurological disease. Search methods: We searched the following electronic databases for published trials: the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL); Ovid MEDLINE (1950 to 2013); EMBASE (1980 to 2013); AMED (Allied and Complementary Medicine) (1941 to 2013); CINAHL (Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature) (1937 to 2013). We also searched major clinical trials registers: CCT (; Clinical Trials (; Chinese Clinical Trial Register (; ACTR ( We examined the reference lists of all potentially relevant studies to identify further relevant trials. We handsearched published abstracts of conference proceedings from both the Dysphagia Research Society and the European Society of Swallowing Disorders. Digestive Disease Week (published in Gastroenterology) was also handsearched. Additionally, we searched ProQuest Dissertations & Theses for dissertation abstracts. Selection criteria: Only randomised controlled trials were sought. Data collection and analysis: Independent searches were completed by JR, AM, MC and MW. Two review authors (JR and MW) independently inspected titles, abstracts and key words identified from the literature search. Main results: No randomised controlled studies were retrieved. Twenty-nine studies were excluded, mainly on the basis of trial design. Authors' conclusions: It was not possible to reach a conclusion on the efficacy and safety of botulinum toxin as an intervention for people with UOS dysfunction and neurological disease. There is insufficient evidence to inform clinical practice. Directions for future research are provided.




Regan, J., Murphy, A., Chiang, M., Mcmahon, B. P., Coughlan, T., & Walshe, M. (2014, May 6). Botulinum toxin for upper oesophageal sphincter dysfunction in neurological swallowing disorders. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. John Wiley and Sons Ltd.

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