Researchers investigated swallowing dysfunctions in Becker muscular dystrophy (BMD) patients and found they have swallowing problems similar to those observed in patients with Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD). These observations are important not only for a better understanding of BMD progression, but also to improve the standard care of these patients.
Difficulty in swallowing, or dysphagia, is a common complication in patients with progressive neuromuscular disease. Swallowing disorders can negatively impact the prognosis and quality of life of these patients. Such problems can lead to dehydration and malnutrition, but also to aspiration that can result in pneumonia and even death.
Previous studies have found a correlation between dysphagia and the severity of physical dysfunction in patients with neuromuscular diseases. Therefore, “swallowing function should be carefully and appropriately evaluated and followed-up,” the authors wrote.
In the recent study, researchers evaluated the characteristics of swallowing dysfunction found in BMD patients and compared them with those found in DMD patients. Swallowing dysfunction had not been studied previously in BMD.
Eighteen patients with DMD and 18 with BMD, in the same functional stage, were enrolled in the study. Their swallowing capacity was evaluated via radiographic images, or videofluorography, obtained during swallowing of fluid.
Preliminary data showed that the rate of aspiration and swallowing function were similar in both groups of patients, and they presented similar dysphagia abnormalities, including accumulation of residues in the back of the tongue and reduced movement of the laryngeal muscles.
Interestingly, the authors found that patients with DMD presented a more severely impaired laryngeal movement than those with BMD. This suggests that the muscles responsible for this specific swallowing movement are weaker in DMD than in BMD. According to the authors, this also could be explained by deterioration of the respiratory condition seen in DMD patients.
“Our results suggest the possibility that patients with BMD show swallowing dysfunction with disease progression. Therefore, swallowing assessment is recommended for patients with progressive BMD,” the authors said.
All the observed dysphagia symptoms were associated to an increased risk of aspirating residues during respiration after swallowing.
Nevertheless, further studies that include a larger number of participants are still required to confirm these findings. The authors also emphasized it would be of interest to correlate dysphagia in BMD patients with disease progression and its genetics.
“We believe that the present findings provide important information for nutrition management and prevention of pneumonia in patients with BMD,” the authors said.