Impact of formal training on agreement of videofluoroscopic swallowing study interpretation across and within disciplines

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Abdom Radiol (NY)


PURPOSE: Formal agreement studies on interpretation of the videofluoroscopic swallowing study (VFSS) procedure among speech-language pathologists, radiology house officers, and staff radiologists have not been pursued. Each of these professions participates in the procedure, interprets the examination, and writes separate reports on the findings. The aim of this study was to determine reliability of interpretation between and within the disciplines and to determine if structured training improved reliability.

METHODS: Thirteen speech-language pathologists (SLPs), ten diagnostic radiologists (RADs) and twenty-one diagnostic radiology house officers (HOs) participated in this study. Each group viewed 24 VFSS samples and rated the presence or absence of seven aberrant swallowing features as well as the presence of dysphagia and identification of oral dysphagia, pharyngeal dysphagia, or both. During part two, the groups were provided with a training session on normal and abnormal swallowing, using different VFSS samples from those in part one, followed by re-rating of the original 24 VFSS samples. A generalized estimating equations (GEE) approach with a binomial link function was used to examine each question separately. For each cluster of tests, as example, all pairwise comparisons between the three groups in the pretraining period, a Hochberg's correction for multiple testing was used to determine significance. A GEE approach with a binomial link function was used to compare the premeasure to postmeasure for each of the three groups of raters stratified by experience.

RESULTS: The primary result revealed that the HO group scored significantly lower than the SLP and RAD group on identification of the presence of dysphagia (p = 0.008; p = 0.001, respectively), identification of oral phase dysphagia (p = 0.003; p = 0.001, respectively), and identification of both oral and pharyngeal phase dysphagia, (p = 0.014, p = 0.001, respectively) pretraining. Post training there was no statistically significant difference between the three groups on identification of dysphagia and identification of combined oral and pharyngeal dysphagia.

CONCLUSIONS: Formal training to identify oropharyngeal dysphagia characteristics appears to improve accuracy of interpretation of the VFSS procedure for radiology house officers. Consideration to include formal training in this area for radiology residency training programs is recommended.

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