Indicators of choking risk in adults with learning disabilities: a questionnaire survey and interview study.

Feeding and swallowing impairments are key predictors of increased morbidity and mortality in adults with learning disabilities. This postal survey and interview study sought to identify risk factors in adults with learning disabilities who have histories of choking.
A total of 2000 questionnaires were sent to carers of all adults with learning disabilities registered as service users by three local health authorities. (A 'service user' may be using any specialist learning disability health or social care facility with day, residential or therapeutic services). Of the 674 service users for whom surveys were returned, 47 were living in hospital, 396 were living in residential or group homes and 208 were living with relatives, or in their own homes. Eighteen subjects who had reported serious or repeated episodes of choking were interviewed in depth in their residences or workplaces. Responses were subjected to frequency analyses. Personal characteristics were analysed. Choking patterns were differentiated by food texture.
A total of 34% of questionnaires on 674 service users were returned; 42% of respondents reported one or more choking episodes. There was a significantly greater occurrence of choking among people with more severe learning disability, with Down syndrome, people who had an incomplete dentition or were taking a greater number of psychotropic drugs. Antisocial eating habits learnt in institutional settings presented an additional choking hazard for some individuals.
Choking is a serious hazard for many adults with learning disabilities. This study establishes many of the characteristics associated with swallowing problems in this population. Clinicians and carers should benefit from awareness of these predictors, leading to better management of eating behaviours and habits. A choking and swallowing risk assessment should be included in routine health assessments of adults with learning disability, paying especial attention to the condition of a person's teeth; possible side effects from prescribed medication, and abnormal eating behaviour.
AuthorsAlice Thacker, Adam Abdelnoor, Claire Anderson, Sarah White, Sheila Hollins
JournalDisability and rehabilitation (Disabil Rehabil) Vol. 30 Issue 15 Pg. 1131-8 ( 2008) ISSN: 0963-8288 [Print] England
PMID18666021 (Publication Type: Journal Article)
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Airway Obstruction (etiology)
  • Cohort Studies
  • Deglutition Disorders (etiology)
  • Down Syndrome (complications)
  • Educational Status
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Learning Disorders (complications)
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mouth, Edentulous (complications)
  • Odds Ratio
  • Risk
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult

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