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Dysphagia (dis-FAH-juh) is a swallowing disorder that can make you uncomfortable and vulnerable to infection, 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 Rehabilitation Hospital Outpatient Therapy Center specializes in evaluating and improving swallowing function. We work with you to improve your comfort while eating and drinking as well as 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 our pediatric program. Dysphagia program services at Mary Free Bed 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 guide us in providing you an individualized therapy plan.

An Overview of Our Services

Fiberoptic Endoscopic Evaluation of Swallowing (FEES)
One of the ways your rehabilitation team is able to 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 is able to observe your swallowing while you eat. The study is recorded for close examination and evaluation.

Videofluoroscopic Swallow Study
Another way your rehabilitation team can evaluate eating and swallowing difficulties is with a videofluoroscopic swallow study, which 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 difficulties and problem areas such as food or liquid routing to the lungs instead of the stomach (aspiration) or sticking in the 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 newborn through teen. Our Pediatric Feeding Program treats dysphagia as well as 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: Through a certified provider, electrodes are placed on the face and/or neck to provide neuromusculare electrical stimulation to the swallowing muscles while completing 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.