The dysphagia stress test for rapid assessment of swallowing difficulties in esophageal conditions

Tiffany H. Taft, Emily Kern, Kristen Starkey, Jenna Craft, Meredith Craven, Bethany Doerfler, Laurie Keefer, Peter Kahrilas, John Pandolfino

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Background: Esophageal dysphagia is a common symptom in gastroenterology practice. Current rapid assessment tools are limited to oropharyngeal dysphagia and do not translate well to esophageal conditions. We aim to create a novel tool, the dysphagia stress test (DST), to evaluate swallowing in patients with esophageal disease characterized by dysphagia. Methods: Adults with eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE), gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), achalasia, and dysphagia not otherwise specified (NOS) participated. Patient controls with non-esophageal diagnoses and healthy controls were also recruited. Participants completed the DST with five bolus challenges: water, applesauce, rice, bread, barium tablet and rated their swallowing difficulty and pain. A study clinician observed and documented water use and refusal of any challenges. Participants also completed measures of esophageal symptoms, hypersensitivity, and symptom anxiety to evaluate the DST validity. Collinearity of bolus challenges guided item reduction. Key Results: A total of 132 subjects participated. Both control groups and GERD patients had the best swallowing ability, while achalasia, EOE, and dysphagia NOS scored poorer. About 90% of patients were able to attempt or pass each of the bolus challenges, suggesting high acceptability. Construct validity of the DST is evidenced by modest negative correlations with symptom severity, hypersensitivity, and anxiety. The DST does not appear to be influenced by brain-gut processes. Applesauce, rice, and bread demonstrated collinearity; thus, the DST was reduced to three challenges. Conclusions & Inferences: The DST is the first rapid assessment tool designed for gastroenterology clinics with direct observation of swallowing ability across several conditions to mitigate issues related to patient self-report of esophageal symptoms.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere13512
JournalNeurogastroenterology and Motility
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2019


  • assessment
  • deglutition disorders
  • dysphagia
  • esophagus


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