Dysphagia is defined as difficulty swallowing. Symptoms of dysphagia can include coughing while swallowing or after swallowing, choking on food or liquid, the sensation of food getting stuck in the throat, pain during swallowing, shortness of breath during feeding and onset of pneumonia.
A therapeutic intervention for the management of dysphagia and difficulty swallowing. The VitalStim® Therapy System uses small electrical currents to stimulate the muscles responsible for swallowing. At the same time, trained specialists help patients "re-educate" their muscles through rehabilitation therapy.
A small, carefully calibrated current is delivered to the motor nerves of the patient's throat through specially designed electrodes causing the muscles responsible for swallowing to contract. At the same time, a dysphagia specialist guides the patient through active swallowing therapy to re-educate normal swallow function.
Conventional therapy for dysphagia typically employs both compensatory strategy techniques (diet changes, head positioning or modifying bolus size) and specific techniques aimed at improving the coordination and strength of the swallowing muscles (thermal stimulation, biofeedback, mendelssohn maneuver or supraglottic swallow). The VitalStim® Therapy System is the use of electrical stimulation for activation of muscles. Research shows that the combination of electrical stimulation and traditional treatment techniques is very effective at restoring swallowing function.
Treatment sessions usually last an hour.
This depends a lot on the underlying medical problem causing the dysphagia. In many patients, improvement in the swallowing function starts almost immediately. Patients often see good results in 6 to 20 treatment sessions.Your therapist can give you more information about how long your therapy with VitalStim might take.
One of the most common forms of dysphagia is oropharyngeal dysphagia which affects stroke survivors, patients with progressive neuromuscular disorders, head and neck cancer survivors and the elderly.
No. The VitalStim® Therapy System is a non-invasive, painless treatment.
Yes. The VitalStim® Therapy System is the only technology cleared by the FDA for restoring the swallowing function to patients with oropharyngeal dysphagia.
VitalStim is effective for both sexes and all ages.
The VitalStim® Therapy System should not be used directly over an active neoplasm or infection. It should be used with caution in patients with seizure disorders and patients with implanted electronics (e.g., pacemakers, implantable defibrillators, deep brain stimulators). Some patients may not respond well to VitalStim. This may include patients with significant lower motor neuron damage and patients with severely impaired cognition. A certified VitalStim clinician can give you more information about candidacy for this treatment.
Caution should be used with patients who have cardiac demand pacemakers.
The only problematic issue found during the study was the occasional occurrence of skin irritation as a result of the adhesive used to secure the stimulation electrode to the anterior portion of the neck.
Multiple studies indicate that the VitalStim® Therapy System is safe and effective and that the addition of electrotherapy to dysphagia therapy significantly enhances outcomes. Click here to view a summary document of the various papers in print. (link to the research summary) Additionally, the FDA trial also demonstrated positive treatment outcomes in the majority of the patients.
Medical specialists that commonly specialize in swallowing disorders include Speech-Language Pathologists and Occupational Therapists.
Medicare recognizes and provides reimbursement for the treatment of swallowing dysfunction provided the treatment is medically necessary and delivered by a qualified professional.
Click on “Find a VitalStim Provider” at the very top of this page. Type in your zip code and a list of current VitalStim providers will appear.
Information on this site is for your reference only and should not be used as a substitute for talking with your doctor. It's important to discuss diagnosis and treatment information with your doctor.