BACKGROUND: Dysphagia is a clinically relevant symptom in patients with Parkinson's disease (PD) leading to pronounced reduction in quality of life and other severe complications. Parkinson's disease-related dysphagia may affect the oral and pharyngeal, as well as the esophageal phase of swallowing.
METHODS: To examine the nature and extend of esophageal dysphagia in different stages of PD and their relation to oropharyngeal dysfunction, we examined 65 PD patients (mean age 66.3±9.7 years, mean disease duration 7.9±5.8 years, mean Hoehn & Yahr [H&Y] stage 2.89±0.91) and divided into three groups (early [H&Y I+II; n=21], intermediate [H&Y III; n=25], and advanced stadium [H&Y IV+V; n=19]), using esophageal high-resolution manometry (HRM) to detect esophageal motor disorders. Oropharyngeal impairment was assessed using fiberoptic endoscopic evaluation of swallowing.
KEY RESULTS: Major esophageal motor disorders were detected in nearly one third of the PD patients. Minor impairment of the esophageal body was present in 95% of participants and throughout all disease stages with pathological findings especially in peristalsis and intrabolus pressure (IBP). The IBP was found to significantly increase in the advanced stadium. Although dysfunction of the upper and lower esophageal sphincters was observed in individual patients, alterations in these esophageal segments revealed no statistical significance compared with normative data. No clear association was found between the occurrence of oropharyngeal dysphagia and esophageal impairment.
CONCLUSIONS & INFERENCES: Esophageal body impairment in PD is a frequent phenomenon during all disease stages, which possibly reflects α-synucleinopathy in the enteric nervous system.