What is the function of the post-swallow exhalation?
What purpose does the post-swallow exhalation serve? It turns out there is more than one purpose. The obvious one is that it helps to facilitate airway clearance. Let’s say your swallow is not very efficient and there is some residue near your airway. If you inhale post-swallow, you will pull that material into your airway. But if you consistently exhale post-swallow you can push out any material that's trying to get into your airway.
The post-swallow exhalation helps to facilitate laryngeal closure and laryngeal elevation. It also helps to facilitate esophageal clearance, which is a pressure relationship. I often say, "What happens in one part of the body affects what happens in other parts of the body.” This is particularly true for respiration and GI functions. They are very closely linked. This relationship between esophageal clearance and post-swallow exhalation is a pressure relationship. As you inhale, your lungs are inflated and they put pressure on the esophagus. But as you're exhaling, post-swallow, that pressure is coming off of the esophagus. So, the esophagus can do its work in clearing the material that you just swallowed more efficiently. So, post-swallow exhalation serves multiple purposes.
Refer to the SpeechPathology.com course, Post-Extubation Dysphagia: Critical Information for Critical Patients, for more information on risk factors for and causes and consequences of post-extubation dysphagia, including options for assessment and management of these critically ill patients.