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What is the incidence rate of Dysphagia?

Dysphagia is the medical term for swallowing difficulties.

Difficulty with swallowing is the feeling that food or liquid is stuck in the throat or at any point before the food enters the stomach[1].

Some people with dysphagia have problems swallowing certain foods or liquids, while others can’t swallow at all.

The complex process of swallowing involves numerous nerves that help the muscles of the mouth, throat and oesophagus1. The key steps in the process of swallowing are as follows:

  • Chewing food
  • Moving it into the back of the mouth
  • Moving it down the oesophagus (food pipe)


Research found the following rates of prevalence and incidence for dysphagia[2]:

  • between 50-75% of nursing home residents
  • between 50-60% of head and neck cancer survivors
  • between 40-78% of stroke survivors – of those with initial dysphagia following stroke, 76% will remain with a moderate to severe dysphagia and 15% with profound dysphagia
  • 48% of patients undergoing cervical discectomy and fusion
  • 33% of the people with multiple sclerosis
  • 27% of those with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • 10% of acutely hospitalised older people
  • 5% of adults with a learning disability, 5% of community-based individuals with learning disabilities and 36% of hospital-based individuals.


Most at risk of suffering from dysphagia in the paediatric segment include: infants, children and young people with neuro disability and those born prematurely.

Recent research has found the incidence of feeding difficulties is[2]:

  • between 25-45% in a typically developing paediatric population
  • between 31-99% for children with cerebral palsy
  • between 21-44% for children with general neurodevelopmental disabilities
  • between 26.8-40% of infants born prematurely
  • between 68-72% of children with acquired conditions during the acute phase of care.