The use of pulse oximetry as a screening assessment for paediatric neurogenic dysphagia


The use of pulse oximetry as a screening assessment for paediatric neurogenic dysphagia


Morgan A T; Omahoney R; Francis H


Developmental Neurorehabilitation




children; Pediatrics; Rehabilitation; dysphagia; Neurosciences & Neurology; child; rett syndrome; intellectual disability; Neurological impairment; acute stroke; deglutition disorder; desaturation; feeding problems; oxygen-saturation; patients; pulse oximetry; reliably detect aspiration; respiratory patterns; severe cerebral-palsy; swallow; feeding difficulties; trajectory; characteristics


Purpose: Early screening and intervention for dysphagia is crucial to offset potential outcomes such as compromised nutrition or reduced respiratory function. Current paediatric dysphagia screening tests are subjective with poor sensitivity and specificity. The present study examined whether an objective method, pulse oximetry (measuring oxygen saturation (SpO(2)) levels), could differentiate between children with and without dysphagia, in relation to (1) Average pre-feeding baseline SpO(2) levels; (2) Average feeding SpO(2) levels; (3) Average post-feeding SpO(2) levels; and (4) The number of events of oxygen desaturation pre-, during and after feeding. Methods: Nine participants with chronic neurological disability (CND) (7 F, 2M) (9; 7-15; 11 years) and nine control participants matched for age (9; 5-16; 0 years) and sex were assessed using a clinical bedside evaluation (CBE) and pulse oximetry. Results: A statistically significant difference was found in SpO(2) levels between the two groups (p<0.001) during oral feeding only (sensitivity, 88.9%; specificity, 88.9%). Only three children with dysphagia experienced 'events' of SpO(2) desaturation during feeding. Conclusion: Pulse oximetry may provide a useful adjunct to the CBE for dysphagia screening, with average SpO(2) levels during feeding predicting those with and without dysphagia with moderate levels of sensitivity and specificity. The finding of individual variation in desaturation ` events', however, warrants the provision of further data on large homogenous populations to provide definitive criterion for pathological SpO(2) levels associated with dysphagia during oral feeding.


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Morgan A T; Omahoney R; Francis H, “The use of pulse oximetry as a screening assessment for paediatric neurogenic dysphagia,” Pediatric Palliative Care Library, accessed August 1, 2021,

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