VitalStim Therapy

Also called dysphagia (“dis FAY juh”), swallowing disorders can occur at various phases in the swallowing process. It can be caused by damage to the nervous system such as:

  • Stroke, brain injury, spinal cord injury
  • Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis
  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease)
  • Muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy
  • Alzheimer’s disease

Problems affecting the head and neck, including:

  • Cancer in the mouth, throat or esophagus
  • Injury or surgery involving the head and neck
  • Decayed or missing teeth, or poorly fitting dentures

Many other diseases, conditions or surgical interventions can result in swallowing problems.

Some of the signs and symptoms of dysphagia include:

  • Coughing during or right after eating or drinking
  • Wet or gurgly sound during or after eating or drinking
  • Extra effort or time needed to chew or swallow
  • Food or liquid leaking from the mouth or getting stuck in the mouth
  • Recurring pneumonia, or chest congestion after eating
  • Weight loss or dehydration from not being able to eat enough

Where can you get help?

CRMC offers a new specialty service for the treatment of dysphagia. Treatment of this disorder is available in our rehabilitation department, conducted by certified speech language pathologist. Called VitalStim® Therapy, it is a specialized form of Neuromuscular Electrical Stimulation (NMES) and the only “e-stim” approved by the FDA for the treatment of dysphagia. The treatment uses uniquely designed external skin electrodes placed on specific neck muscles. The electrical stimulation causes contraction of the muscles to a normal swallow response. The treatment sessions usually last from 30 to 45 minutes and patients may see dramatic improvement after as few as ten daily sessions.

Primary care physicians must refer patients before they can be seen for VitalStim Therapy.

For more information about the treatment for dysphagia, please call rehabilitation services at 620-252-1505.

Rehab Hours: Monday – Friday, 7:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.