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Center for Swallowing Disorders

Swallowing Therapy available at Siskin Hospital's Center for Swallowing Disorders

The ability to swallow food and liquid is one of our body’s most important functions for sustaining life as well as a major component of socialization, community interaction and quality of life.  

Difficulty swallowing, called dysphagia, may be caused by problems of the brain or nervous system such as a stroke, brain or spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson’s Disease. Other causes of swallowing disorders include gastro esophageal reflux disease (GERD) and head and neck cancer.

Traditional treatment methods for dysphagia involve managing the condition with diet modifications and exercise. At Siskin Hospital, we also offer the latest evidence-based protocol using exercise principles, biofeedback training and neuromuscular electrical stimulation to best meet the needs of our patients. 

Swallowing disorders pose considerable risk to the patient because of the potential effects such as malnutrition, dehydration and pneumonia. 

Our mission is to provide state-of-the-art treatment of dysphagia to ensure the health and well-being of our patients. 
 
Our Staff

Our experienced staff of Speech-Language Pathologists (SLPs) are trained in clinical and instrumental evaluation of a wide range of swallowing disorders.  From the evaluation findings, a comprehensive treatment plan is developed to improve swallowing function, minimize risk of aspiration and return the person to safe eating as soon as possible. 

Learn more about our team of Speech-Language Pathologists.



Special features of Siskin Hospital's Swallowing Therapy Program:
 
  • Siskin Hospital is the ONLY rehabilitation center in Chattanooga that has on-site instrumental assessment of swallowing with videofluoroscopy.
    • This means that you do not have to leave our facility to have your x-ray swallowing test repeated AND the therapist that has been working on your swallowing problem can actually perform the swallowing test, as opposed to having to go to another facility where the therapists may not be as familiar with your case. Read more.

  • Siskin Hospital is the ONLY rehabilitation center in Chattanooga with in-house Fiberoptic Endoscopic Evaluation of Swallowing (FEES). 
    • This technique permits assessment of swallowing without radiation exposure and allows for unique positioning needs of patients. Read more.

  • Use of a special medical rehabilitation device provides biofeedback and measures the strength of your tongue and lip muscles. This is important because the tongue and lips are essential in  producing a strong swallow.
  • The University of Florida and two nationally-recognized leaders in the field of dysphagia selected our speech-language pathology department to participate in a pilot research project.
  • We have more than six speech-language pathologists trained in the use of electrical stimulation to facilitate progress with swallowing, along with the use of traditional and other swallowing therapy techniques.
  • We have 3 speech-language pathologists trained in the use of myofascial release for the treatment of tight muscles (head and neck cancer/radiation effects).
  • We have therapeutic dining programs where patients can learn to use maneuvers/strategies to swallow more safely with the supervision and encouragement of therapists and nursing staff.

Fiberoptic Endoscopic Evaluation of Swallowing (FEES) & Videofluroscopic Swallow Function
 
The two primary instrumental assessment procedures used at Siskin Hospital to provide a thorough evaluation of swallowing disorders are Fiberoptic Endoscopic Evaluation of Swallowing (FEES) and Videofluoroscopic Swallow Function studies. 

 

Both procedures are used to determine safe food textures for the patient and to evaluate treatment strategies to ensure the plan for swallowing therapy is targeting the appropriate areas.  The SLP will discuss with you and your doctor which procedure is recommended for your particular swallowing needs. 

The FEES procedure involves passing a flexible endoscope with a light through the nasal passage into the throat so that the SLP can directly view the swallowing structures and function from above.  This procedure has advantages for unique positioning requirements, lack of time limitations and does not involve the use of x-ray.

Videofluoroscopy is a video x-ray taken while the patient is eating and drinking. The addition of barium to foods and liquids will allow these items to be visible on the x-ray.  The SLP typically observes the patient from a side view to evaluate the passage of the food and liquid through the mouth and throat. This procedure has the advantage of viewing the oral and upper esophageal phases of swallowing and can provide information regarding the function of the swallowing anatomy that is not visible from FEES.   


For more information about the Swallowing Therapy Program at Siskin Hospital, call 423.634.1389 or email swallowing@siskinrehab.org.