Difficulty swallowing, or dysphagia, ranks among less-explored medical conditions, so Dr. Dan Patel and a team of scientists at Vanderbilt University studied data from a government agency project.
Specifically, the Tennessee-based team reviewed the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project National Inpatient Sample and published their findings in the Diseases of the Esophagus journal, according to a university press release.
Scientists working on the study estimated that the disorder affects approximately 3 percent of hospitalized adults age 45 and older, that dysphagia patients spent more time in the hospital, were more likely to need further care and exhibited higher mortality rates than other patients.
They also found that inpatients costs were 33 percent higher, resulting in $16.8 billion more spent on such costs from 2009 to 2013, the release said.
“Promising early interventions are available,” the scientists wrote in their report, the release said. “It behooves clinicians and hospitals to recognize and treat dysphagia early.”
Symptoms of dysphagia can vary and include pain during swallowing, known as odynophagia; the sensation of having food become stuck in the throat or chest; or being unable to swallow.
Not a great deal is known about the consequences of dysphagia in the general population except for studies done regarding stroke victims, according to the release.