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Swallowing Studies and FEES

Swallowing problems, or dysphagia, may occur as a result of a traumatic or non traumatic brain injury. Dysphagia may occur anywhere in the swallowing process, which prevents getting and keeping food in the mouth, and being able to move it down the throat, and then into the stomach.

If a person has dysphagia, a change in diet may be required for safety, such as soft foods, or no thin liquids. Sometimes an alternate feeding source needs to be put in place to be sure the person receives enough nutrition and fluids, such as a surgically or non-surgically placed feeding tube.

At Mary Free Bed, a speech language pathologist evaluates, and treats swallowing problems. The evaluation may be in the form of a clinical bedside evaluation or by one of two procedures, called videofluoroscopy swallow study (VFSS) or fiberoptic endoscopic evaluation of the swallow (FEES) study.

VFSS involves different types of food and liquid consistencies that are mixed with barium. While the person eats or swallows the food product that is administered by a speech language pathologist, the radiologist takes a moving video x-ray of the food or liquid as it starts in the mouth, and then makes its way through the swallowing process. The speech language pathologist is looking for complications throughout the swallowing process. If food products enter the airway or lungs, called aspiration, the person is at risk for infection.

FEES involves passing a flexible scope attached to a camera through the nose to get a view of the throat. A speech language pathologist, competency trained in this procedure, videotapes the swallowing process as the person takes in food and liquids to ensure there are no complications.

Various strategies may be tried during both assessments to reduce the risk and frequency of any complications throughout the swallowing process.

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