Chesapeake, VA – Imagine life without the flavor of a tart apple on your tongue, or the refreshing feel of cold water on your lips. This is life for an estimated 15 million adults and children with Dysphagia, or, the inability to swallow.
Dysphagia can be caused by strokes, disorders like Lou Gehrig’s or Parkinson’s Disease, and radiation therapy for cancers of the head and neck. Up to 60,000 people die each year from complications.
“This is a debilitating condition that can lead to pneumonia, dehydration, malnutrition, even asphyxia,” says Rhonda Chetney, Director of Clinical Operations for Sentara Home Care Services. “Up until now, the most common treatment has been insertion of a feeding tube in the patient’s stomach.”
Now, Sentara Home Care Services is the first home care agency in Virginia to be certified in the use of the VitalStim™ therapy system. VitalStim™ uses mild electrical signals, delivered through electrodes attached to the throat, to stimulate the muscles of the swallowing mechanism into working again. In a formal study, dysphagic patients showed greater, and quicker, improvement in swallowing with Electronic Stimulation than with traditional therapy. ES Therapy is administered by a registered speech therapist, trained and certified to operate the VitalStim™ system.
This can be a life-changing therapy,” says Rhonda Chetney. “Just being able to eat and drink can boost a patient’s outlook, and speed recovery from a stroke or other illness.”