There are many conditions that can cause dysphagia, or difficulty swallowing foods and liquids, such as stroke, brain or neck injury, Parkinson’s Disease, dementia, multiple sclerosis, etc. These difficulties in swallowing can cause coughing/choking during eating and drinking, unintentional weight loss, reduced quality of life, and possible respiratory infections, such as aspiration pneumonia. The speech-language pathologists at Washington University can help assess and facilitate further evaluation to diagnose dysphagia and the specific physiological deficits causing difficulties. Following a diagnosis of dysphagia through an instrumental swallow evaluation in speech therapy, treatment will begin with evidence based exercises, Vital Stim Therapy if indicated, and use of safe swallow strategies to facilitate improvement of the swallow function through the use of neuroplasticity principles. The patient and their family will be educated on the International Dysphagia Diet Standardization Initiative (IDDSI), predictors of aspiration pneumonia, and risk reduction strategies while prioritizing the patient’s preferences and values.
You will begin your visit by describing your experiences, changes, and concerns. Then, you will complete a clinical swallow evaluation. This evaluation includes an assessment of the strength, function, and coordination of the muscles involved in swallowing, eating and drinking. Following the clinical evaluation, the need for further evaluation and treatment will be discussed and education will be provided regarding your plan of care, treatment options, and risk reduction strategies.
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