Purpose of review
Videofluoroscopy (VFSS) and fibreoptic endoscopic evaluation of swallowing (FEES) are established instrumental techniques to support differential diagnosis and treatment of oropharyngeal dysphagia. Whilst their value is undisputed, each tool is not without limitations. The COVID-19 pandemic has restricted access to VFSS and FEES leading clinicians to explore alternative or augmentative tools to support swallowing assessment.
Ultrasound (US) is an established tool for visualisation of head and neck anatomy, including structures implicated in swallowing. Although US has been utilised in swallowing research for many years, its application has not translated into common clinical practice. This review presents and debates the evidence for and against use of US for clinical swallowing assessment.
Evaluation of swallowing muscle morphometry and measurement of isolated swallowing kinematics are two primary uses of US in swallowing assessment that have been identified in the literature. Use of US to detect bolus flow, aspiration and residues is in its early stages and needs further research.
US shows promise as an adjunctive modality to support assessment of swallowing. With standardisation, these measurements may have potential for transition into clinical care. Reliability and validity testing and development of normative data are imperative to ensure its use as an evidence-based instrumentation.