MRI Assessment of Swallow Muscle Activation with the Swallow Exercise Aid and with Conventional Exercises in Healthy Volunteers: An Explorative Biomechanical Study

Rebecca T Karsten, Leon C Ter Beek, Bas Jasperse, Maarten J A van Alphen, Johannes M Peeters, Lisette van der Molen, Frans J M Hilgers, Martijn M Stuiver, Ludi E Smeele

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Swallowing muscle strength exercises are effective in restoring swallowing function. In order to perform the exercises with progressive load, the swallow exercise aid (SEA) was developed. Precise knowledge on which muscles are activated with swallowing exercises, especially with the SEA, is lacking. This knowledge would aid in optimizing the training program to target the relevant swallowing muscles, if necessary. Three healthy volunteers performed the three SEA exercises (chin tuck against resistance, jaw opening against resistance and effortful swallow) and three conventional exercises [conventional effortful swallow (cES), Shaker and Masako] in supine position inside an MRI scanner. Fast muscle functional MRI scans (generating quantitative T2-maps) were made immediately before and after the exercises. Median T2 values at rest and after exercise were compared to identify activated muscles. After the three SEA exercises, the suprahyoid, infrahyoid, sternocleidomastoid, and lateral pterygoid muscles showed significant T2 value increase. After the Shaker, the lateral pterygoid muscles did not show such an increase, but the three other muscle groups did. The cES and Masako caused no significant increase in any of these muscle groups. During conventional (Shaker) exercises, the suprahyoid, infrahyoid, and sternocleidomastoid muscles are activated. During the SEA exercises, the suprahyoid, infrahyoid, sternocleidomastoid, and lateral pterygoid muscles are activated. The findings of this explorative study further support the potential of the SEA to improve swallowing rehabilitation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)41-53
Number of pages13
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2021

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