Traditional methods to treat dysphagia involve thermal stimulation, speech therapy, swallowing maneuvers, and diet modifications. These treatments may require a person to tilt his or her chin down while swallowing, to eat only pureed foods, to take medications to decrease secretions, or to drink only thickened liquids.
An alternative new treatment called VitalStim Therapy uses painless electrical impulses to retrain throat muscles and restore swallowing. During the treatment sessions, a small electrical current is delivered to the motor nerves of the throat with specially designed electrodes, causing the muscles responsible for swallowing to contract. At the same time, the clinician guides the patient through active swallowing therapy to re-educate normal swallowing function. Some patients report dramatic improvement after just four or five sessions.
According to Marcy Sharpiro, Coordinator of Speech Language Pathology at Florida Hospital Waterman, who holds a PhD in swallow disorders and is certified to administer the treatment, “VitalStim makes the swallowing response faster and stronger, and it allows patients to make strides toward improvement more quickly than traditional methods of treatment.”
The cost of VitalStim therapy is covered by Medicare and other health insurance providers if prescribed by a doctor and administered by a certified therapist. For more information about dysphagia treatment options at Florida Hospital Waterman Rehabilitation Institute, please call 352.253.3567.