What are swallowing disorders?
Swallowing difficulties may occur as a result of neurological events such as stroke, traumatic brain injury, and vocal cord paralysis or generalized weakness. Speech therapy focuses on the oral and pharyngeal stages of swallowing. Individuals with esophageal problems are usually referred to a gastroenterologist or otorhinolaryngologist (Ear, Nose and Throat [ENT] physician). Symptoms related to swallowing disorders may include one or more of the following:
- coughing or choking after eating or drinking
- wet or gurgly vocal quality
- weak cough reflex
- weak voice
- difficulty managing saliva
- difficulty chewing or managing food in the mouth
- multiple swallows to clear food
- food or liquid coming out of the nose
- weight loss related to poor food/fluid intake
- frequent episodes of chest congestion or pneumonia
- dehydration and/or frequent urinary tract infections
What is the evaluation procedure?
Comprehensive evaluations are conducted to determine the cause of the swallowing disorder. These evaluations include both instrumentation as well as observation.
Evaluations may include
- oral mechanism exam
- bedside swallowing examination
- FEES (Fiberoptic Endoscopic Exam) – FEES is an exam that evaluates the swallowing mechanism by passing a flexible fiberoptic endoscope into the back of the mouth to visualize the swallow as the client is fed foods of varying consistency. The speech-language pathologist, in conjunction with the ENT physician, can observe the movement of food through the throat into the esophagus allowing diagnosis of swallowing disorders.
Clients who received an evaluation for swallowing at another location within the past three months should send the report along with the UCF case history form to the Communication Disorders Clinic.
In addition, clients need to send any relevant medical evaluations including radiological reports (neuroimaging). This will provide information useful in determining whether additional evaluation procedures need to be completed.
What type of treatment do we provide?
Clinical faculty members from the Communication Disorders Clinic, in conjunction with an ENT physician, offer evaluations and treatment of oral and pharyngeal stage swallowing difficulties.
The Communication Disorders Clinic offers comprehensive therapy services guided by evidence-based practices.
Treatment options include
- oral motor exercises for strengthening
- thermal stimulation
- diet recommendations and feeding techniques to promote safe swallow
- patient and caregiver education and training for safe swallow protocol and recognition of signs and symptoms of aspiration
Frequency of therapy services range from once a week to multiple sessions a week and/or intensive therapy for six weeks. Therapy options will be discussed with each client after the completion of an evaluation.