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Swallowing Disorders Clinic provides expert personnel and state-of-the-art equipment for the diagnosis and treatment of swallowing disorders.

Swallowing problems (dysphagia) can occur at any point in the process of moving food, liquid, or saliva from the mouth through the throat (pharynx), into the esophagus and to the stomach. These problems may result in poor nutrition, dehydration or aspiration (accidental ingestion of food particles or fluids into the lungs).

Dysphagia reduces quality of life. Swallowing disorders are often accompanied by voice impairment (dysphonia) as well. The central goal of the Clinic is to provide comprehensive evaluation and management of dysphagia and related disorders and improve quality of life.

Conditions Treated

  • Swallowing problems after brain surgery
  • Swallowing problems after head and neck surgery
  • Swallowing problems after cervical spine surgery
  • Swallowing problems after thoracic surgery
  • Swallowing problems after stroke
  • Swallowing problems from neurologic disease
  • Swallowing problems from head and neck cancer
  • Swallowing problems after chemoradiation therapy
  • Chronic aspiration

Indications of a swallowing disorder may include:

  • Inability to swallow or extensive time required to swallow
  • Frequent choking on food
  • Hesitancy in swallowing food
  • Coughing during or immediately after eating or drinking
  • Pain during swallowing
  • Recurring pneumonia
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Regurgitation
  • Heartburn

Patients may suffer from swallowing or voice difficulties for a number of reasons, including:

  • Stroke or other forms of acute neurological damage
  • Head and neck cancers
  • Radiation therapy to the neck
  • Heart surgery or other chest surgery, which may lead to vocal cord weakening or paralysis
  • Trauma to the throat or larynx
  • Tracheostomy tubes
  • Degenerative neurological disorders such as dementia (including Alzheimer’s disease), multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, or Lou Gehrig’s disease (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis)
  • Pharyngeal and esophageal sacs and pouches (diverticulum) and narrowing (stenosis)
    Age-related changes

The Swallowing Disorders Clinic offers expert personnel devoted and an array of sophisticated diagnostic tools and treatment modalities. Procedures performed include:

  • Fiberoptic endoscopic evaluation of swallowing:a fiberoptic flexible endoscope is inserted through the nose while the physician observes the patient’s swallowing anatomy and function as food of various consistencies is swallowed. Swallow can be assessed without using x-rays.
  • Fiberoptic esophagoscopy: this new procedure allows physicians to examine the entire swallowing apparatus — from mouth to esophagus — without sedating the patient. The procedure is quicker and safer than traditional esophagoscopy under sedation or general anesthesia. Biopsies can be taken as needed.
  • Vocal cord injection: Vocal fold paralysis leads to inadequate closure of the larynx during swallowing that causes choking during swallowing.
  • In-office laryngoscopy with biopsy: Examination and biopsy of the pharynx, larynx, and esophagus can be performed in the clinic under topical anesthesia, rather than in an operating room under sedation.
  • Behavioral swallowing therapy:  The clinic has extensive experience with swallowing therapy.

Approach to Swallowing Disorders

The Clinic’s unique approach involves evaluation of patients with swallowing problems by both an otolaryngologist and a speech pathologist as needed. A comprehensive surgical, medical, or rehabilitation management plan, tailored to the individual patient, is then developed. Quick targeted referrals are set up with neurologists, gastroenterologists, and thoracic surgeons if needed. Each patient receives a personalized treatment and monitoring regimen based on his or her medical and personal needs.

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