Korean J Gastroenterol.  2021 Feb;77(2):57-63. 10.4166/kjg.2021.017.

Approach of Dysphagia

  • 1Department of Internal Medicine, Kosin University College of Medicine, Busan, Korea


Dysphagia has been reported to be relatively common and seems to be increased in Korea. Dysphagia can be classified as oropharyngeal dysphagia or esophageal dysphagia. In patients with swallowing difficulties, it is important to determine whether the dysphagia is oropharyngeal or esophageal. Patients with orophayngeal dysphagia are likely to develop aspiration and aspiration pneumonia, so accurate diagnosis should be made in the early stages of complaining of swallowing difficulties. Patients with orophayngeal dysphagia complained difficulty initiating a swallow. Swallowing may be accompanied by coughing, choking, nasopharyngeal regurgitation, aspiration, and a sensation of residual food remaining in the pharynx. Patients with esophageal dysphagia complained difficulty swallowing several seconds after initiating a swallow and a sensation of food getting stuck in the esophagus. Esophageal dysphagia should be characterized by analyzing whether foods that cause swallowing difficulties are solid, liquids or both, whether symptoms are progressive or intermittent, how severe, and associated symptoms, such as weight loss, heartburn, or regurgitation. The approach to diagnostic testing to determine the cause of esophageal dysphagia is based upon the medical history. If esophageal motility disorder is suspected, barium esophagogram is performed first, and upper endoscopy is performed first if structural abnormalities are suspected. If an upper endoscopy shows normal findings, but the esophagus is still suspected of mechanical obstruction, a barium esophagogram is performed. Esophageal manometry should be performed in patients with swallowing difficulties who are suspected of esophageal motility disorder or have normal findings in upper endoscopy.


Dysphagia; Oropharynx; Esophagus; Diagnosis; Swallowing
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