Background: A widely used method for assessing swallowing dysfunction is the videofluoroscopic swallow study (VFSS) examination. However, this method has a risk of radiation exposure. Therefore, using wearable, non-invasive and radiation-free sensors to assess swallowing function has become a research trend. This study addresses the use of a surface electromyography sensor, a nasal airflow sensor, and a force sensing resistor sensor to monitor the coordination of respiration and larynx movement which are considered the major indicators of the swallowing function. The demand for an autodetection program that identifies the swallowing patterns from multiple sensors is raised. The main goal of this study is to show that the sensor-based measurement using the proposed detection program is able to detect early-stage swallowing disorders, which specifically, are useful for the assessment of the coordination between swallowing and respiration. Methods: Three sensors were used to collect the signals from submental muscle, nasal cavity, and thyroid cartilage, respectively, during swallowing. An analytic swallowing model was proposed based on these sensors. A set of temporal parameters related to the swallowing events in this model were defined and measured by an autodetection algorithm. The verification of this algorithm was accomplished by comparing the results from the sensors with the results from the VFSS. A clinical application of the long-term smoking effect on the swallowing function was detected by the proposed sensors and the program. Results: The verification results showed that the swallowing patterns obtained from the sensors strongly correlated with the laryngeal movement monitored from the VFSS. The temporal parameters measured from these two methods had insignificant delays which were all smaller than 0.03 s. In the smoking effect application, this study showed that the differences between the swallowing function of smoking and nonsmoking participants, as well as their disorders, is revealed by the sensor-based method without the VFSS examination. Conclusions: This study showed that the sensor-based non-invasive measurement with the proposed detection algorithm is a viable method for temporal parameter measurement of the swallowing function.
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