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Adult Swallowing Disorders Program

What is a swallowing disorder?

Difficulty in swallowing is called dysphagia. While it occurs most often in the elderly, it can affect people of all ages. Dysphagia sometimes occurs after a stroke, traumatic head or spinal cord injury, radiation therapy or surgery for head and neck cancer, or after intubation (when a breathing tube is placed in the throat). Dysphagia is also common in people with neurologic diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis or dementia.

Symptoms include:

  • Coughing during or after swallowing
  • Choking on food or liquid
  • Pain during swallowing
  • The feeling that food is stuck in the throat

If not managed well, dysphagia can lead to aspiration pneumonia, which is caused by food or liquid going down the airway and into the lungs. It also can cause problems such as chronic malnutrition and dehydration, which can lead to weight loss, muscle loss and physical weakness.

Our program

The Adult Swallowing Disorders Program at Roger C. Peace Rehabilitation Hospital offers evidence-based swallowing evaluation and treatment, including:

  • Clinical swallow evaluation: Thorough evaluation assessing strength and movement of the muscles involved in chewing and swallowing
  • Modified barium swallow study: Assessment of swallowing muscle strength and function under video X-ray using different consistencies of barium
  • Individualized treatment programs: Exercise programs to improve muscle strength and swallowing function as well as education on compensatory strategies and postural techniques to maximize swallowing safety
  • Surface electromyography (sEMG): Use of visual biofeedback to measure the strength of the swallow
  • McNeill dysphagia therapy program (MDTP): An intense therapy program to rehabilitate the swallow in severe or chronic dysphagia
  • Expiratory muscle strength training (EMST): Use of a hand-held device to strengthen the respiratory muscles for improvement in cough and swallow functions
  • VitalStim: Neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES) used with swallowing exercises with the goal to strengthen and reeducate the swallowing muscles and improve motor control
  • Myofascial release: Techniques allowing for ease of swallowing, improved swallow reflex, improved tongue movement for increased ability to manage food and chewing

For more information about the outpatient Swallowing Disorders Program at RCP, call 864-455-8788.