Objective/Hypothesis: Expiratory muscle strength training (EMST) is a simple, inexpensive, device-driven exercise therapy. Therapeutic potential of EMST was examined among head and neck cancer survivors with chronic radiation-associated aspiration. Study Design: Retrospective case series. Methods: Maximum expiratory pressures (MEPs) were examined among n = 64 radiation-associated aspirators (per penetration–aspiration scale score ≥ 6 on modified barium swallow). Pre–post EMST outcomes were examined in a nested subgroup of patients (n = 26) who enrolled in 8 weeks of EMST (25 repetitions, 5 days/week, 75% load). Nonparametric analyses examined effects of EMST on the primary endpoint MEPs. Secondary measures included swallowing safety (Dynamic Imaging Grade of Swallowing Toxicity [DIGEST]), perceived dysphagia (M.D. Anderson Dysphagia Inventory [MDADI]), and diet (performance status scale for head and neck cancer patients [PSSHN]). Results: Compared to sex-matched published normative data, MEPs were reduced in 91% (58 of 64) of aspirators (mean ± standard deviation: 89 ± 37). Twenty-six patients enrolled in EMST and three patients withdrew. MEPs improved on average 57% (87 ± 29 to 137 ± 44 cm H2O, P < 0.001) among 23 who completed EMST. Swallowing safety (per DIGEST) improved significantly (P = 0.03). Composite MDADI scores improved post-EMST (pre-EMST: 59.9 ± 17.1, post-EMST: 62.7 ± 13.9, P = 0.13). PSSHN diet scores did not significantly change. Conclusion: MEPs were reduced in chronic radiation-associated aspirators relative to normative data, suggesting that expiratory strengthening could be a novel therapeutic target to improve airway protection in this population. Similar to findings in neurogenic populations, these data also suggest improved expiratory pressure-generating capabilities after EMST and translation to functional improvements in swallowing safety in chronic radiation-associated aspirators. Level of Evidence: 4. Laryngoscope, 128:1044–1051, 2018.
- expiratory muscle strength training
- head and neck cancer
ASJC Scopus subject areas