Research: Down Syndrome and Swallowing Pathophysiology

I wanted to share a summation of recent research on prevalence of pathophysiology in infants with Down Syndrome that adds to our evidence-base. It suggests that a high index of suspicion is warranted, and watchful vigilance is required.

Narawane et al (2020) found high prevalence of both oral and pharyngeal dysphagia (89.8% and 72.4% respectively) in infants with Down Syndrome during VFSS. Laryngeal penetration was present in 52% and aspiration in 31.5%, often with thin liquids. When aspiration occurred, it was “silent” in 67.5%.

Jackson et al. (2019) looked at presence of deep laryngeal penetration and/or aspiration (on VFSS or FEES) in infants with Down Syndrome younger than 6 months versus those 6-12 months old. 31.9% of the younger group showed abnormal findings, compared to 51.3% in the older group. CHD and laryngomalacia were identified as risk factors for aspiration.

Stanley et al (2019) looked at 100 infants with Down Syndrome younger than six months via VFSS. 96% showed abnormal results. CHD was not a risk factor in this study, but co-occurring risk factors were desaturation during feeding, airway/respiratory anomalies, being underweight and prematurity.

Jackson et al. (2016) looked at older children with Down Syndrome (mean age of 2.1 years), and found oral motor difficulties in 63.8%, pharyngeal dysphagia in 56.3% and aspiration in 44.2%. Aspiration events were mostly “silent”.



Narawane, A., Eng, J., Rappazzo, C., Sfeir, J., King, K., Musso, M. F., & Ongkasuwan, J. (2020). Airway protection & patterns of dysphagia in infants with down syndrome: Videofluoroscopic swallow study findings & correlations. International journal of pediatric otorhinolaryngology132, 109908.

Jackson, A., Maybee, J., Wolter‐Warmerdam, K., DeBoer, E., & Hickey, F. (2019). Associations between age, respiratory comorbidities, and dysphagia in infants with down syndrome. Pediatric pulmonology54(11), 1853-1859.

Jackson, A., Maybee, J., Moran, M. K., Wolter-Warmerdam, K., & Hickey, F. (2016). Clinical characteristics of dysphagia in children with Down syndrome. Dysphagia31(5), 663-671.

Stanley, M. A., Shepherd, N., Duvall, N., Jenkinson, S. B., Jalou, H. E., Givan, D. C., … & Roper, R. J. (2019). Clinical identification of feeding and swallowing disorders in 0–6 month old infants with Down syndrome. American Journal of Medical Genetics Part A179(2), 177-182.


Leave a Reply