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Eating and Swallowing After a Stroke

Swallowing disorders, or dysphagia (dis-Fay-juh), can be caused by a stroke. Dysphagia is a special concern if you’ve had a stroke because it can cause infection and prevent you from getting the nutrition and hydration you need to heal. The rehab experts at Mary Free Bed make it their goal to evaluate and improve swallowing function so you can tolerate the least restrictive diet as possible.

What is dysphagia?

If you have dysphagia, that means you’re having one or more problems with the process of chewing, with the muscle functions in your throat that protect your airway, or with the function of the upper part of your esophagus.

What are the symptoms of a swallowing disorder?

  • Coughing during or soon after eating or drinking
  • Having a wet sounding voice during or after eating or drinking
  • More time or effort needed to chew or swallow food
  • Leaking food or liquid from your mouth or holding food in your mouth
  • Recurrent pneumonia or chest congestion after eating
  • Weight loss and/or dehydration from not eating or drinking enough

Mary Free Bed's Dysphagia Program

If you're an inpatient, Mary Free Bed's therapists will do a bedside swallow evaluation. We also see patients at the Outpatient Therapy Center through the Dysphagia Program. Your assessment includes a clinical evaluation, relevant history, and recommendations. Your evaluation may indicate that further testing and therapy is needed.

Videofluoroscopic Swallow Study (VFSS)
Dysphagia can occur anywhere in the swallowing process, from readying food in the mouth to having it reach the stomach. For the VFSS, a speech-language pathologist (SLP) gives you different foods and liquids mixed with barium while a radiologist takes an x-ray video as you swallow.

Your SLP assesses your swallow and watches for difficulties as you chew and move the food or liquid back into your throat. As the food and liquid continue through your throat, your SLP may find other problems, such as aspiration (food or liquid going toward the lungs instead of the stomach) or residue (food or liquid sticking within your throat).

Fiberoptic Endoscopic Evaluation of Swallowing (FEES)
A fiberoptic endoscopic evaluation of swallowing gives a better view inside your throat. The test involves your speech-language pathologist passing a flexible scope through your nose and into your throat to observe as food enters your throat. The study is recorded so difficulties with aspiration or residue can be evaluated.


You'll receive therapy from an occupational therapist, a speech therapist, or both. Therapy focuses on some or all of these areas:

  • Compensatory techniques (e.g., tucking the chin to the chest when drinking)
  • Optimal positioning to increase safety
  • Mouth and throat exercises to improve strength and coordination
  • Diet modifications, such as soft foods or thicker liquids, to increase safety; at times, an alternate feeding source, such as a feeding tube, may be needed

Pediatric Feeding Program
Mary Free Bed offers a separate outpatient program for children, newborn and up, with dysphagia. The pediatric Feeding Program treats dysphagia as well as oral aversion, oral defensiveness, and behavioral issues related to feeding.

Contact Mary Free Bed's Inpatient Dysphagia and Swallow Studies Program

616.242.0396 or 800.305.8893



Contact Mary Free Bed's Outpatient Dysphagia and Swallow Studies Program

616.242.0366 or 800.668.6001



Outpatient Therapy Center
350 Lafayette SE
Grand Rapids, MI 49503-4651
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