Muscle Tension Dysphagia: Symptomology and Theoretical Framework

Christina H. Kang, Joseph G. Hentz, David G. Lott

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Objective To identify symptoms, common diagnostic findings, pattern of treatments and referrals offered, and their efficacy in a group of patients with idiopathic functional dysphagia in an otolaryngology setting with multiple providers. Study Design Case series with chart review. Setting Tertiary academic center. Subjects and Methods Following Mayo Clinic Institutional Review Board approval, a retrospective chart review was conducted of patients with dysphagia who had a videofluoroscopic swallow study between January 1, 2013, and April 30, 2015. Each patient's dysphagia symptomology, videofluoroscopic swallow study, flexible laryngoscopy, and medical chart were reviewed to identify the treatment paradigms that were utilized. Results Sixty-seven adult patients met the inclusion criteria. Abnormal laryngeal muscle tension was present in 97% of patients. Eighty-two percent of patients also demonstrated signs of laryngeal hyperresponsiveness. Nonspecific laryngeal inflammation was evident in 52% of patients. Twenty-seven patients were referred to speech-language pathology for evaluation. Thirteen patients completed a course of voice therapy directed toward unloading muscle tension. All 13 patients self-reported resolution of dysphagia symptoms. Conclusion The study results suggest that laryngeal muscle tension may be a factor in the underlying etiology in patients with idiopathic functional dysphagia. We propose the diagnostic term muscle tension dysphagia to describe a subset of patients with functional dysphagia. Further prospective studies are needed to better evaluate potential gastroesophageal confounders in this group of patients and to identify an effective paradigm for treatment. In our limited series, speech-language pathology intervention directed toward unloading muscle tension appears effective.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)837-842
Number of pages6
JournalOtolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery (United States)
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 1 2016


  • functional dysphagia
  • irritable larynx
  • laryngeal hyperresponsiveness
  • laryngeal paresthesia
  • laryngeal sensitivity
  • muscle tension dysphonia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Otorhinolaryngology


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