Pediatric Dysphagia

The incidence of feeding and swallowing disorders refers to the number of new cases identified in a specified time period. The prevalence of feeding and swallowing disorders refers to the number of children who are living with feeding and swallowing problems in a given time period.

It is assumed that the incidence of feeding and swallowing disorders is increasing because of the improved survival rates of children with complex and medically fragile conditions (Lefton-Greif, 2008; Lefton-Greif, Carroll, & Loughlin, 2006; Newman, Keckley, Petersen, & Hamner, 2001) and the improved longevity of persons with dysphagia that develops during childhood (Lefton-Greif et al., 2017).

Estimated reports of the incidence and prevalence of pediatric feeding and swallowing disorders vary widely due to factors including variations in the conditions and populations sampled, how feeding disorders and/or swallowing impairment are defined, and the choice of assessment methods and measures (Arvedson, 2008; Lefton-Greif, 2008). The data below reflect this variability:

  • According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), survey interviews indicated that within the past 12 months, 0.9% of children (approximately 569,000) ages 3–17 years are reported to have swallowing problems (Bhattacharyya, 2015; Black, Vahratian, & Hoffman, 2015).
  • An estimated 116,000 newborn infants are discharged from short-stay hospitals with a diagnosis of feeding problems, according to the National Hospital Discharge Survey from the CDC (National Center for Health Statistics, 2010). Prevalence is estimated to be 30%–80% for children with developmental disorders (Arvedson, 2008; Brackett, Arvedson, & Manno, 2006; Lefton-Greif, 2008; Manikam & Perman, 2000).
  • Oropharyngeal dysphagia and/or feeding dysfunction in children with cerebral palsy is estimated to be 19.2%–99.0%. Rates increase with greater severity of cognitive impairment and decline in gross motor function (Benfer et al., 2014; Calis et al., 2008; Erkin, Culha, Sumru, & Gulsen, 2010).
  • The odds of having a feeding problem increase by 5 times in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) compared with children who do not have ASD (Sharp et al., 2013).
  •  ARFID rates are estimated to be 1.5%–13.8% in children between the ages of 8 and 18 years with suspected gastrointestinal problems or eating disorders (Eddy et al., 2015; Fisher et al., 2014). Cases of ARFID are reported to have a greater likelihood in males and children with gastrointestinal symptoms, a history of vomiting/choking, and a comorbid medical condition (Fisher et al., 2014).
  • Prevalence rates of oral dysphagia in children with craniofacial disorders are estimated to be 33%–83% (Caron et al., 2015; de Vries et al., 2014; Reid, Kilpatrick, & Reilly, 2006).

Content Disclaimer: The Practice Portal, ASHA policy documents, and guidelines contain information for use in all settings; however, members must consider all applicable local, state and federal requirements when applying the information in their specific work setting.