A swallow evaluation may be recommended when a person has difficulty swallowing food or liquids, coughs or chokes when eating, or has the feeling of food getting stuck in the throat.
This type of evaluation may also be recommended if you have a condition associated with a high prevalence of swallowing disorders (Parkinson’s Disease, Head and Neck Cancer, ALS, Myasthenia Gravis, COPD, or a stroke).
The therapists conducts a through interview, reviews your medical history, assesses the muscles involved in swallowing, and evaluates your swallowing function while you consume different consistencies of food and while drinking liquids.
Your therapist may recommend and instrumental swallow evaluation (swallow exam using imaging), so that they can better define the problem, and help you get better. If therapy is not planned using imaging, therapy may not be helpful, and important factors regarding your swallowing may be missed.
Instrumental Swallow Exam
An Instrumental swallow evaluation provides visualization of your throat while you eat and drink, so that your therapist can determine if there is a risk for food or liquid entering your airway, determine if you benefit from diet modification, and most importantly, plan individualized treatment based on any deficits found, personal factors, and your own goals and interests.
At our company, we use the gold standard Flexible Endoscopic Evaluation of Swallowing (FEES), to get direct visualization of your throat while you swallow.
This high definition technology uses a small flexible scope with a camera at the end, to assess how you manage your secretions, how safely and efficiently you swallow food, and provides visual feedback .
Some of the advantages of FEES is that it is a portable system, doesn’t involve radiation, and you can consume real foods instead of contrast such as Barium.
Your family member can be present if you wish.
If we identify swallowing problems during the instrumental swallow exam, your therapist will offer you different options for therapy, so that you can get back to eating the things that you love.
If you require the interventions provided by your doctor, or another type of therapist (i.e ENT, or PT for lymphedema treatment), appropriate referrals will be made.
Therapy includes swallow exercises to improve the strength of swallowing muscles, improve your cough strength, manual therapy to work through areas of tightness or scar tissue, or electrical stimulation to the face or throat muscles. You may benefit from a combination of these modalities of treatment, or may only need one.
Once you complete your treatment, a follow up instrumental exam is often recommended to check your progress. Many times, progress means you don’t need to modify your diet anymore, or you can start eating by mouth again, if you previously had a feeding tube.
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