Swallowing is a complex function involving the mouth, throat and esophagus. The Speech Language Pathology Department at Hoag Hospital provides a comprehensive approach to evaluation and treatment of swallowing disorders caused by stroke, and other neurologic disorders, cervical spine disease, head and neck cancer, laryngectomy and weakness or damage to the muscles and nerves used for swallowing.
Common complaints include:
- Aspiration of solid food or liquids
- Chronic choking, coughing, gagging or a sense of food “sticking” in the throat
- Feeling of a lump in the throat
- Recurrent episodes of pneumonia or bronchitis
- Painful swallow
Initial assessment may include a Modified Barium Swallow Test which is a videofluoroscopic x-ray assessment of the swallowing mechanism or Fiberoptic Endoscopic Evaluation of Swallowing (FEES). These exams enable the clinicians to identify the disorder and help guide the appropriate treatment program.
The goal of the program is to keep patients eating by mouth or to return them to eating by mouth whenever possible.
Treatment may include:
- Identification of appropriate diet that specifies the thickness and consistency of food and liquids that can be safely swallowed
- Provision of recommendations for optimal swallowing safety
- Development strategies including postural changes and other maneuvers to enhance swallowing
- Instruction in appropriate oral hygiene
- Exercises for strengthening and improving coordination of the swallowing mechanism
- Neuromuscular electrical stimulation
- Family and caregiver training
A physician referral is required for the Modified Barium Swallow Test, Fiberoptic Endoscopic Evaluation of Swallowing (FEES) and for any specific treatments provided.