Interventions for Patients With Alzheimer's Disease and Dysphagia

  • End date
    Jun 30, 2024
  • participants needed
  • sponsor
    University of Wisconsin, Madison
Updated on 4 July 2022
cognitive impairment
alzheimer's disease
swallow study


The overall purpose of this project is to develop effective dysphagia rehabilitative interventions for patients with Alzheimer's Disease and related dementias at risk for pneumonia development.


This proposal consists of a small, randomized clinical trial to determine the impact of two novel interventions on swallowing-related outcomes in patients with mild-moderate Alzheimer's Disease and Related Dementias (ADRD) and identify subgroups of patients most likely to benefit from these interventions. Patient-caregiver dyads will be randomized to lingual strengthening, saliva substitute use, a combination of the two, or only usual care. Saliva and swallowing-related outcomes will be collected at baseline and following the 8 week intervention period.

Consent and Randomization: Eligible dyads will be approached, consented and randomized at clinical care sites within University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics. Eligible participants' capacity to consent will determined by their primary clinical provider or team. Research staff will consent participant (or legally authorized representatives) prior to their swallow study. Each dyad will have equal chances of randomization to either usual care or one of the intervention arms plus usual care, with randomization stratified by the participant's dementia severity determined by the Clinical Dementia Rating (CDR) scale to ensure equal distribution of mild and moderate patients.

Baseline Assessment: Following randomization, the baseline assessment will be completed in tandem with the outpatient clinic visit. Staff will collect data on sociodemographics, comorbidities (using the Charlson comorbidity score approach) and medications (including anticholinergics and neuroleptics). The Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA) will be administered at this time. Oral health status will be graded using the Brief Oral Health Status Examination, a valid and reliable scoring instrument developed for non-dental health care providers in long term care. Dentition will be characterized by the number of posterior occlusal pairs of teeth and denture use. Smoking history and active use during the study will be recorded.

Usual Care: Usual care group participants will receive standard swallowing interventions as recommended by the clinical Speech-Language Pathologist. Such treatment would likely consist of dietary (e.g., thickened liquids or pureed foods) or postural compensatory strategies (e.g., chin down posture while swallowing). All patient participants in intervention groups will also receive usual care, as indicated per their primary clinical team.


Saliva substitute: Each patient-caregiver dyad will be provided with a commercially available gel-based saliva substitute, Biotene® Oral Balance Gel. Participants will be instructed to apply an amount equivalent to about 1 cm of gel with a finger to the tongue and most intensely affected areas of the oral cavity three times a day for 8 weeks. Caregivers will be trained in how to assist the patient with application and support will be provided through follow-up phone calls.

Lingual strengthening intervention: Device training for dyads assigned to lingual strengthening will occur following randomization during the research visit. Isometric tongue strengthening will be completed using the Iowa Oral Performance Instrument (IOPI) over an 8-week program. An air-filled pressure bulb is placed on the surface of the oral tongue and pressed against the hard palate during exercise. Each patient is given a target pressure value to aim for as determined by the baseline one repetition maximum (1RM) lingual pressures. During week one of the regimen, the target value of each repetition will be 60% of the 1RM. For the remaining seven weeks, the target value will be increased to 80% of the 1RM. At weeks three, five, and seven, the baseline will be re-measured by phone and the 80% target value re-calculated. The final assessment point will be after completion of lingual strengthening. Training will be provided to both participants and caregivers on the device and lingual strengthening protocol and support will be provided to dyads through follow-up phone calls.

Condition Dementia, Dysphagia, Alzheimer Disease
Treatment Isometric tongue strengthening, Biotene, Isometric tongue strengthening facilitated by Iowa Oral Performance Instrument (IOPI), Biotene Oral Balance Gel
Clinical Study IdentifierNCT03682081
SponsorUniversity of Wisconsin, Madison
Last Modified on4 July 2022


Yes No Not Sure

Inclusion Criteria

Age 50-99
English speaking
Diagnosis of dementia or cognitive impairment or memory loss
Actively involved caregiver
Resides at home or an assisted living facility
Clinical Dementia Rating (CDR) scale score between 0.5 and 2.0
Inclusion criteria (caregivers)
English speaking
Age 18 and older
Contact with patient at least 1 time a week
Has access to a working telephone

Exclusion Criteria

Dementia due to cerebrovascular disease as primary cause
History of head and neck cancer or other structural deformity that can affect swallowing
Allergy to barium
Currently breastfeed or pregnant or planning to become pregnant
Exclusion criteria (caregivers)
Lacks ability to give consent
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Additional screening procedures may be conducted by the study team before you can be confirmed eligible to participate.

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If you are confirmed eligible after full screening, you will be required to understand and sign the informed consent if you decide to enroll in the study. Once enrolled you may be asked to make scheduled visits over a period of time.

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