‘Food Sticking in My Throat’: Videofluoroscopic Evaluation of a Common Symptom

Aarthi Madhavan, Giselle D. Carnaby, Michael A. Crary

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Prevalence of the symptom of food ‘sticking’ during swallowing has been reported to range from 5 to 50 %, depending on the assessment setting. However, limited objective evidence has emerged to clarify factors that contribute to this symptom. Three hundred and fifteen patient records from an outpatient dysphagia clinic were reviewed to identify patients with symptoms of ‘food sticking in the throat.’ Corresponding videofluoroscopic swallowing studies for patients with this complaint were reviewed for the following variables: accuracy of symptom localization, identification and characteristics (anatomic, physiologic) of an explanatory cause for the symptom, and the specific swallowed material that identified the explanatory cause. One hundred and forty one patients (45 %) were identified with a complaint of food ‘sticking’ in their throat during swallowing. Prevalence of explanatory findings on fluoroscopy was 76 % (107/141). Eighty five percent (91/107) of explanatory causes were physiologic in nature, while 15 % (16/107) were anatomic. The majority of explanatory causes were identified in the esophagus (71 %). Symptom localization was more accurate when the explanatory cause was anatomic versus physiologic (75 vs. 18 %). A non-masticated marshmallow presented with the highest diagnostic yield in identification of explanatory causes (71 %). Patients complaining of ‘food sticking in the throat’ are likely to present with esophageal irregularities. Thus, imaging studies of swallowing function should include the esophagus. A range of materials, including a non-masticated marshmallow, is helpful in determining the location and characteristics of swallowing deficits contributing to this symptom.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)343-348
Number of pages6
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 17 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Otorhinolaryngology
  • Gastroenterology
  • Speech and Hearing


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