Dysphagia (dis-FAY-ja), or difficulty swallowing, affects nearly 15 million Americans. Dysphagia can occur as a result of a stroke or other neurological diseases, COPD or difficulty breathing, history of prolonged ventilator use or tracheotomy, prolonged inactivity (bedridden) or deconditioning as a result of aging, cancer of head/neck, injuries to head, neck or chest areas, or those with a dementia diagnosis. Symptoms of dysphagia can include:
- Coughing or clearing your throat during/after eating/drinking
- Wet vocal quality
- Recurrent chest infections
- Inability to swallow
- sensation of food getting stuck in your throat or chest
- Bringing food back up (regurgitation)
- Unexpectedly losing weight
- Having to cut food into smaller pieces or avoiding certain foods because of trouble swallowing
For some people with dysphagia, exercises to improve the muscles used for swallowing may be prescribed. This in conjunction with Vital Stim® therapy can help strengthen and increase coordination for the muscles used for swallowing. Vital Stim® therapy was cleared by the FDA in 2002 and is a non-invasive external neuromuscular electrical stimulation placed on the neck or face that helps with treatment of dysphagia.
At Priority Rehab and Wellness, our speech pathologist will complete a clinical evaluation of your swallowing to determine appropriateness of the Vital Stim therapy (following receipt of a prescription from your medical provider for Vital Stim and dysphagia therapy.) This evaluation will include obtaining information regarding medical history, swallowing history, perception of the problem, cognitive status, and trials of food liquids as applicable. If needed, further tests may be recommended: x-ray of swallow (Videofluoroscopic Swallow Study), referrals to GI or ENT as appropriate.
So, how exactly does Vital Stim work? Based on your swallowing test results, our Speech Pathologist at Priority Rehab and Wellness will determine which electrode placement will benefit specific muscles to improve your swallowing. The electrodes will be placed on your neck and the Vital Stim device turned on. The speech pathologist will then lead you through swallowing exercises and trials of food or liquid.
Any questions? Call Priority Rehab and Wellness at 317-688-8232 and we can answer them for you today!