The Use of Cervical Auscultation to Predict Oropharyngeal Aspiration in Children: A Randomized Controlled Trial

Thuy Frakking, Anne Chang, Kerry-Ann O'Grady, Michael David, Katie Walker-Smith, Kelly Weir

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    In this study, we aimed to determine if the use of cervical auscultation (CA) as an adjunct to the clinical feeding evaluation (CFE + CA) improves the reliability of predicting oropharyngeal aspiration (abbreviated to aspiration) in children. The design of the study is based on open label, randomized controlled trial with concealed allocation. Results from children (<18 years) randomized to either CFE or CFE + CA were compared to videofluoroscopic swallow study (VFSS), the reference standard data. Aspiration was defined using the Penetration-Aspiration Scale. All assessments were undertaken at a single tertiary pediatric hospital. 155 children referred for a feeding/swallowing assessment were randomized into the CFE n = 83 [38 males; mean age = 34.9 months (SD 34.4)] or CFE + CA n = 72 [43 males; mean age = 39.6 months (SD 39.3)] group. kappa statistic, sensitivity, and specificity values, area under receiver operating curve (aROC). No significant differences between groups were found, although CFE + CA (kappa = 0.41, 95 % CI 0.2–0.62) had higher agreement for aspiration detection by VFSS, compared to the clinical feeding exam alone (kappa = 0.31, 95 % CI 0.10–0.52). Sensitivity was 85 % (95 % CI 62.1–96.8) for CFE + CA and 63.6 % (95 % CI 45.1–79.6) for CFE. aROC was not significantly greater for CFE + CA (0.75, 95 % CI 0.65–0.86) than CFE (0.66, 95 % CI 0.55–0.76) across all age groups. Although using CA as an adjunct to the clinical feeding evaluation improves the sensitivity of predicting aspiration in children, it is not sensitive enough as a diagnostic tool in isolation. Given the serious implications of missing the diagnosis of aspiration, instrumental assessments (e.g., VFSS), remain the preferred standard.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)738-748
    Number of pages11
    Issue number6
    Publication statusPublished - Dec 2016


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