BACKGROUND : A clinical feeding assessment instrument to assist with early identification of oropharyngeal dysphagia (OPD) in
neonates was developed.
OBJECTIVE : To investigate the validity and reliability of the Neonatal Feeding Assessment Scale (NFAS) in comparison to the
modified barium swallow study (MBSS) as gold standard.
METHOD : A within-subject design was implemented. A group of 48 late premature neonates (mean gestational age 35.5 weeks)
were sampled in the neonatal intensive care unit.
RESULTS : The NFAS consists of six subsections, including physiological stability, infant state, stress cues, screening of muscle
tone and control, oral peripheral examination and feeding/swallowing assessment. 93% of participants (14/15) received confirmatory
diagnosis of OPD on MBSS. The NFAS presented with high sensitivity (78.6%) and specificity (88.2%) scores. The
positive predictive value was 78.6%. Subsequently the accuracy of the NFAS to identify the presence of OPD accurately was
85.4% when compared to MBSS. Inter-rater reliability was determined on 35% of the sample. The inter-rater agreement on
overall instrument outcome was substantial beyond chance.
CONCLUSION : The NFAS may be of use to clinicians to support the early identification of OPD in this population, especially in
resource constrained settings working without access to MBSS and to reach under served neonates.