Does Therapy With Biofeedback Improve Swallowing in Adults With Dysphagia? A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis



      To describe and systematically review the current evidence on the effects of swallow therapy augmented by biofeedback in adults with dysphagia (PROSPERO 2016:CRD42016052942).

      Data Sources

      Two independent reviewers conducted searches that included MEDLINE, EMBASE, trial registries, and gray literature up to December 2016.

      Study Selection

      Randomized controlled trials (RCTs) and non-RCTs were assessed, including for risk of bias and quality.

      Data Extraction

      Data were extracted by 1 reviewer and verified by another on biofeedback type, measures of swallow function, physiology and clinical outcome, and analysed using Cochrane Review Manager (random effects models). Results are expressed as weighted mean difference (WMD) and odds ratio (OR).

      Data Synthesis

      Of 675 articles, we included 23 studies (N=448 participants). Three main types of biofeedback were used: accelerometry, surface electromyography (sEMG), and tongue manometry. Exercises included saliva swallows, maneuvers, and strength exercises. Dose varied between 6 and 72 sessions for 20-60 minutes. Five controlled studies (stroke n=95; head and neck cancer n=33; mixed etiology n=10) were included in meta-analyses. Compared to control, biofeedback augmented dysphagia therapy significantly enhanced hyoid displacement (3 studies, WMD=0.22cm; 95% confidence interval [CI] [0.04, 0.40], P=.02) but there was no significant difference in functional oral intake (WMD=1.10; 95% CI [-1.69, 3.89], P=.44) or dependency on tube feeding (OR =3.19; 95% CI [0.16, 62.72], P=.45). Risk of bias was high and there was significant statistical heterogeneity between trials in measures of swallow function and number tube fed (I2 70%-94%). Several nonvalidated outcome measures were used. Subgroup analyses were not possible due to a paucity of studies.


      Dysphagia therapy augmented by biofeedback using sEMG and accelerometry enhances hyoid displacement but functional improvements in swallowing are not evident. However, data are extremely limited and further larger well-designed RCTs are warranted.


      List of abbreviations:

      CI (confidence interval), FOIS (Functional Oral Intake Scale), MD (mean difference), NIHR (National Institute for Health Research), OR (odds ratio), PD (Parkinson disease), RCT (randomized controlled trial), sEMG (surface electromyography), WMD (weighted mean difference)
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