How is cervicogenic dysphagia diagnosed?

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How is cervicogenic dysphagia diagnosed is a common question we get as neck health specialists.

Cervicogenic dysphagia is a complex condition that can be caused by various mechanisms.

It is diagnosed through a combination of medical evaluation, clinical assessment, and diagnostic tests.

It starts with tests to rule out red flags and other diagnoses that need immediate medical attention.

The process with a medical provider typically starts with the following steps:

  1. Medical History:
    • The first step is taking a detailed medical history to rule out ENT, respiratory and cardiovascular pathologies.
    • The healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms, their onset, duration, and any other relevant medical conditions.
  2. Clinical Assessment:
    • Healthcare providers carry out a clinical assessment to evaluate swallowing function.
    • This may involve observing your ability to swallow various food and liquid consistencies, checking for signs of aspiration (food or liquid entering the airway), and assessing any discomfort or pain during swallowing.
  3. Video Fluoroscopic Swallow Study (VFSS):
    • This is a specialized test that involves fluoroscopy (real-time X-ray) to assess the swallowing process.
    • It allows healthcare professionals to observe how well food and liquid are moving through the throat and identify any abnormalities or aspiration.
  4. Fiber-optic Endoscopic Evaluation of Swallowing (FEES):
    • This test involves passing a thin, flexible endoscope through the nasal passage to the throat to directly visualize the swallowing process.
    • It can help identify issues like muscle weakness or structural problems.
  5. Other Tests:
    • Depending on the individual case, additional tests may be necessary to rule out other potential causes of dysphagia, such as esophageal disorders.

The cervicogenic dysphagia diagnostic process will then utilize the following steps:

  1. Medical History:
    • The first step in diagnosing cervicogenic dysphagia is taking a detailed medical history.
    • The physical therapy will ask about your symptoms, their onset, duration, and any other relevant medical conditions or previous neck injuries.
  2. Physical Examination:
    • Physical therapists perform a physical examination to assess the cervical spine and neck region.
    • The therapist may look for signs of tenderness, muscle weakness, or limited range of motion in the neck
  3. Imaging Studies:
    • A physician can order diagnostic imaging.
    • Common imaging techniques may include:
        • X-rays: These can help identify abnormalities in the cervical spine.
        • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): MRI provides detailed images of the cervical spine and can reveal issues like cervical disc herniation, compression of nerves, or structural abnormalities.
        • Computed Tomography (CT) Scan: CT scans can provide additional information about the bony structures and soft tissues in the neck.

Once healthcare providers confirm the diagnosis and/or rule out other conditions, they can develop a specialized physical therapy treatment plan tailored to the specific cause of cervicogenic dysphagia.

Treatment options for Cervicogenic Dysphagia

If you experience difficulty swallowing, it’s crucial to seek medical evaluation to rule out any ENT, respiratory and cardiovascular pathologies. Our team will be happy to provide a thorough neck health examination once others causes have been ruled out.

At PhysioFit of NC, we have the expert team in cervical spine conditions to help you to the fullest.

We provide a comprehensive treatment approach through our Neck Alignment Program. This includes manual therapy and exercises to improve neck posture, improve sagittal positioning and promote proper stability. The primary goal of treatment is to address the underlying cervical spine issues that are giving you symptoms.

Don’t hesitate to contact us today so we can help you!