Dysphagia and nutritional management: Highlights from Perth

This blog is part of the ‘Highlights from Perth’ collection of articles, where you can read about the content of some of the talks and posters presented at the 30th International Symposium on ALS/MND in Perth. Presentations have a code beginning with ‘C’ followed by a number (e.g. C50) to help locate the specific abstract in the official abstract book.

People with MND may experience difficulties with chewing and swallowing (dysphagia), problems with hand and arm control, reduced mobility and fatigue, which can make the effort of eating and drinking tiring. Dysphagia can affect around 85% of people with MND at some point throughout their disease progression. This is due to a weakening of the muscles in the mouth and throat, making it harder to eat and drink. Some people with MND choose to have a gastrostomy – a surgical opening through the abdomen into the stomach. This allows tube feeding – a way of passing specially prepared food and fluids straight into the stomach. Adapting nutritional intake and monitoring weight is important to help avoid unintentional weight loss that is associated with faster disease progression and shorter survival.

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Tackling weight loss in MND – from ProGas to PostGas

Swallowing problems are an incredibly common cause of malnutrition and weight loss in MND patients. To add to this, weight loss in MND is associated with shorter survival. This means managing swallowing problems effectively is crucial to ensuring people living with MND can have the best possible quality of life.

Managing swallowing problems using gastrostomy

Swallowing problems in MND are often managed by placing a feeding tube directly into a patient’s stomach – this is known as a gastrostomy. The feeding tube can either be placed into the stomach via the mouth, or directly from outside the body.

An MND Association-funded study that concluded in 2015 provided much needed evidence on the best method and timing for gastrostomy. This study, known as ProGas, was led by Professor Chris McDermott at the Sheffield Institute for Translational Neuroscience (SITraN).Read More »