Keeping you safe and comfortable.

Dysphagia (dis-FAH-juh) is a swallowing disorder that can make you uncomfortable and vulnerable to infections such as aspiration pneumonia. It can also make it difficult for you to receive the nutrition and hydration you need. 

The Dysphagia Program at the Mary Free Bed specializes in evaluating and improving your ability to swallow. We work with you to improve your comfort while eating and drinking, with the aim of helping you enjoy the least restrictive diet as possible. 

We serve a wide variety of patients who have difficulty with eating or swallowing because of an injury, illness or degenerative condition, such as: 

  • Alzheimer’s disease 
  • Apraxia 
  • Brain injury 
  • Cardiac problems 
  • Cerebral palsy 
  • Dementia 
  • Head and Neck Cancer 
  • Muscular dystrophy 
  • Neurological conditions 
  • Parkinson’s Disease 
  • Spina bifida 
  • Stroke 

We also offer dysphagia therapy services and swallow studies for young patients through Mary Free Bed Kids.  


Comprehensive services 

Dysphagia program services are designed to keep you safe and to help you tolerate the least restrictive diet possible. We follow a comprehensive evaluation and assessment process to help us create a therapy plan just for you. 

Fiberoptic Endoscopic Evaluation of Swallowing (FEES) 
One of the ways we evaluate swallowing difficulties is with a fiberoptic endoscopic evaluation. During this procedure, a very narrow, flexible scope is passed through your nose into your throat. Your speech-language pathologist will then observe your swallowing while you eat. The study is recorded for close examination and evaluation. 

Videofluoroscopic Swallow Study
A videofluoroscopic swallow study is essentially an x-ray video. As you consume some foods and liquids mixed with barium, the video will record the complete process of drinking, chewing and swallowing. Your speech-language pathologist will be able to identify problems, such as food or liquid going to your lungs instead of your stomach or sticking in your throat. 

Patient and Family Education
Family involvement is one of the keys to the success of our program. You and your family will receive education and resources to help you understand potential safety concerns. We’ll provide training and support to ensure your treatment can be continued at home. 

Pediatric Feeding Program 
We offer a separate outpatient program for children from newborns to teens. The Mary Free Bed Kids Feeding Program treats dysphagia, oral aversion, oral defensiveness and behavioral issues related to feeding. 

You may receive therapy from an occupational therapist, speech therapist or both. Therapy will focus on techniques to help you compensate for swallowing difficulties, such as exercises to increase strength and coordination. Your team may suggest some diet modifications to ensure your safety. Examples of possible treatments include: 

  • VitalStim Therapy: A certified provider will place electrodes on your face and/or neck to provide neuromuscular electrical stimulation to the swallowing muscles while you complete traditional swallowing exercises. 
  • Myofascial Release: A therapist will provide manual, hands-on therapy for soft tissue and joint mobilization that can contribute to an impaired swallow. 


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