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Oropharyngeal dysphagia: Clinical features, diagnosis, and management

Anthony J Lembo, MD
Section Editors
Nicholas J Talley, MD, PhD
Daniel G Deschler, MD, FACS
Deputy Editor
Kristen M Robson, MD, MBA, FACG


Patients with oropharyngeal dysphagia have difficulty transferring food from the mouth into the pharynx and esophagus to initiate the involuntary swallowing process.

This topic will review the evaluation and treatment of oropharyngeal dysphagia. Our recommendations are largely consistent with the American Gastroenterological Association (AGA) guidelines on the management of oropharyngeal dysphagia (algorithm 1) [1]. An overview of dysphagia; the etiology and evaluation of patients with esophageal dysphagia; the etiology and pathogenesis of oropharyngeal dysphagia; and the etiology, assessment, and management of swallowing disorders in palliative care populations are discussed separately. (See "Approach to the evaluation of dysphagia in adults" and "Oropharyngeal dysphagia: Etiology and pathogenesis" and "Swallowing disorders and aspiration in palliative care: Definition, consequences, pathophysiology, and etiology" and "Swallowing disorders and aspiration in palliative care: Assessment and strategies for management".)


Dysphagia is defined as a subjective sensation of difficulty or abnormality of swallowing.

Oropharyngeal or transfer dysphagia is characterized by difficulty initiating a swallow. Swallowing may be accompanied by nasopharyngeal regurgitation, aspiration, and a sensation of residual food remaining in the pharynx.

Esophageal dysphagia is characterized by difficulty swallowing several seconds after initiating a swallow and a sensation of food getting stuck. (See "Approach to the evaluation of dysphagia in adults", section on 'Symptom-based differential diagnosis' and "Approach to the evaluation of dysphagia in adults", section on 'Evaluation of nonacute dysphagia'.)

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Jun 02, 2015.
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