Breathing and swallowing in normal man - effects of changes in body position, bolus types, and respiratory drive

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Background Coordination of breathing and swallowing is essential for airway protection and dyscoordination may cause morbidity and mortality. Methods Using a recently developed technique for high accuracy respiratory measurements of airflow during swallowing, we investigated the effects of body position (upright vs left lateral), bolus type (spontaneously swallowed saliva vs water), and respiratory drive (normo- vs hypercapnia) on coordination of breathing and swallowing in 32 healthy volunteers. Key Results Swallows were in all cases (100%) proceded by expiration and 98% were also followed by expiration, regardless of body position, bolus type, or respiratory drive. While the endpoint of postswallow apnea correlated well to the endpoint of pharyngeal swallowing, duration of preswallow apnea was highly variable. In a small fraction of swallows followed by inspiration (3%), the expiratory phase before swallowing and duration of postswallow apnea was significantly longer. Body position and respiratory drive affected the increase in upper esophageal sphincter tone during inspiration. Increased respiratory drive also reduced swallowing frequency and shortened duration of preswallow apnea. Water swallows had longer duration of preswallow apnea. Conclusions & Inferences Swallowing occurs during the expiratory phase of respiration, and the fraction of swallows preceded and followed by expiration approach 100% in healthy humans. This integration between breathing and swallowing remains unchanged regardless of body position, bolus characteristics, or respiratory drive. Our results provide a platform for future studies aiming at understanding how this integration is changed by aging, diseases, and drugs.


  • A. I. Hardemark Cedborg
  • K. Boden
  • H. Witt Hedstrom
  • R. Kuylenstierna
  • Olle Ekberg
  • L. I. Eriksson
  • E. Sundman
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Radiology, Nuclear Medicine and Medical Imaging


  • respiration, pharynx, deglutition, control of breath-ing, aspiration, airway, apnea, swallowing
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1201
JournalNeurogastroenterology and Motility
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 2010
Publication categoryResearch