Role of registered dietitians in dysphagia screening

Rebecca A. Brody, Riva Touger-Decker, Stanley VonHagen, Julie O'Sullivan Maillet

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

21 Scopus citations


Objective: To examine the ability of registered dietitians to identify patients at risk for dysphagia and make appropriate diet/feeding recommendations in comparison with the speech-language pathologist, and to determine screening criteria for the registered dietitian to use for prediction of dysphagia risk. Design: The dietitian and speech-language pathologist performed dysphagia screening on subjects independently through questioning and/or mealtime observation to identify signs and symptoms of dysphagia. Presence of dysphagia risk and diet/feeding recommendations were determined and results from the dietitian and speech-language pathologist were compared. Subjects/setting: Thirty-four patients admitted during a 2-month period to a neuroscience unit at an urban teaching hospital were analyzed prospectively. Statistical analyses performed: κ Statistics were used to assess agreement between the dietitian and speechlanguage pathologist. A κ level of less than 0.4 indicated weak agreement, 0.4 to 0.7 indicated moderate agreement, and greater than 0.7 indicated strong agreement. Logistic regression methods were used to evaluate screening criteria as potential predictors of dysphagia risk. Results: Moderate agreement (0.61) was found between the dietitian and speech-language pathologist in determination of dysphagia risk. The dietitian predicted the ability of the patient to consume an oral diet with strong agreement with the speech-language pathologist (1.0); various diet consistencies with moderate agreement (0.61); and the need for liquid restrictions with strong agreement (1.0). The most significant screening variables for prediction of dysphagia risk (P<.05) were age (P=.018), history of dysphagia (P=.042), difficulty swallowing solids (P=.0007), observed facial weakness (P<.0001), and a change in voice quality (P=.0007). Self-reported screening variables significantly related to dysphagia risk included drooling of liquids (P=.0009) and solids (P=.0080), facial weakness (P=.0006), change in voice quality (P=.0010), and prolonged eating time (P=.0157). Applications/conclusions: Dietitians can effectively identify patients with dysphagia. Screening for dysphagia can be implemented as part of standard nutrition assessments and may aid in decreasing dysphagia-related complications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1029-1034
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of the American Dietetic Association
Issue number9
StatePublished - Jan 1 2000

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Food Science
  • Nutrition and Dietetics

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