Spontaneous Swallowing Frequency, Dysphagia, and Drooling in Children With Cerebral Palsy

Michael A. Crary, Giselle D. Carnaby, Lies Mathijs, Sofie Maes, Greet Gelin, Els Ortibus, Nathalie Rommel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Objective: To evaluate relationships between spontaneous swallowing frequency, dysphagia, and drooling in children with cerebral palsy. Spontaneous swallowing frequency was predicted to be inversely related to both dysphagia and drooling among children with cerebral palsy. A secondary objective compared patterns among spontaneous swallowing frequency, drooling, and age in healthy children vs children presenting with cerebral palsy. Design: Cross sectional study. Setting: Children with cerebral palsy were tested at a Cerebral Palsy Reference Center in a university hospital. Healthy children were tested in their home setting. Participants: Twenty children with cerebral palsy were recruited from the local registry for cerebral palsy children and purposive sampling among parents. A group of 30 healthy children was recruited by purposive sampling among family, friends, and the local community. Children below 1 year of age up to 5 years of age were included in the healthy group. This age range was targeted to maximize the potential for drooling in this group. Main Outcome Measures: Both groups provided data on spontaneous swallowing frequency (swallows per minute, or SPM), dysphagia, and drooling. Motor impairment was documented in the children with cerebral palsy. Results: SPM was significantly lower in children with cerebral palsy. Among children with cerebral palsy, SPM correlated significantly with dysphagia severity and trended toward a significant correlation with drooling at rest. In this subgroup, SPM was not correlated with age or degree of motor impairment. Dysphagia was significantly correlated with drooling at rest and both dysphagia and drooling at rest were correlated with degree of motor impairment. The 2 groups did not differ in the degree of drooling at rest. Among healthy children, age but not SPM demonstrated a significant inverse correlation with drooling quotient at rest. Conclusions: Spontaneous swallowing frequency is related to dysphagia and drooling in children with cerebral palsy. The pattern of relationships among spontaneous swallowing frequency and drooling is different between children with cerebral palsy and younger healthy children.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)451-458
Number of pages8
JournalArchives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2022


  • Cerebral palsy
  • Drooling
  • Dysphagia
  • Motor control
  • Rehabilitation
  • Spontaneous swallowing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rehabilitation
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation


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