J Korean Dysphagia Soc.  2023 Jan;13(1):24-33. 10.34160/jkds.2023.13.1.004.

The Comparison of Dysphagia between COVID-19 Pneumonia and Aspiration Pneumonia

  • 1Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Inha University School of Medicine, Incheon, Korea
  • 2Department of Internal Medicine, Inha University School of Medicine, Incheon, Korea


Patients recovering from moderate-to-severe coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) reportedly have dysphagia or difficulty in swallowing. The current study compares the differences in dysphagia characteristics arising from COVID-19 pneumonia and aspiration pneumonia. We further identify factors affecting the severity of dysphagia.
Fifty-four patients diagnosed with COVID-19 pneumonia with dysphagia and 44 patients with aspiration pneumonia were referred for a videofluoroscopic swallowing study (VFSS) since they presented with signs and symptoms of dysphagia. The electronic medical records were reviewed to compare the dysphagia characteristics of the patients.
Intensive care unit (ICU) admission, intubation, tracheostomy, and a diagnosis of Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) after admission were more common in patients with COVID-19 pneumonia (P<0.001 for other variables and P=0.007 for tracheostomy) than in patients with aspiration pneumonia. Compared to patients with aspiration pneumonia, the COVID-19 patients had a significantly higher total modified videofluoroscopic dysphagia scale (mVDS) score, indicating more severe dysphagia (P=0.038). Among the mVDS sub-scores, tracheal aspiration was significantly higher in the COVID-19 pneumonia group (P<0.001). In logistic regression analysis, age (P=0.034), COVID-19 (P=0.001), ICU admission (P=0.012), tracheostomy (P=0.029), and ARDS diagnosis after admission (P=0.036) were significantly associated with tracheal aspiration. After adjusting for age, sex, comorbidities, and clinical variables, COVID-19 was still significantly associated with worse tracheal aspiration scores (P=0.042).
Patients with COVID-19 pneumonia showed more severe dysphagia than subjects with aspiration pneumonia. This is particularly related to tracheal aspiration, as revealed by the VFSS. The dysphagia also correlated with a greater incidence of ICU admission, intubation, tracheostomy, and ARDS diagnosis in the COVID-19 pneumonia group.


COVID-19 pneumonia; Aspiration pneumonia; Dysphagia; Videofluoroscopic swallowing study; Severity
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