VitalStim® Therapy: Treating Dysphagia with Electrical Stimulation

Can’t Swallow? We Can Help.

Dysphagia, or difficulty swallowing, impacts approximately 15 million people in the United States. It affects people of all ages and is a result of a number of conditions. Many times dysphagia may be present without the person realizing they have a medical condition. You might notice an elderly relative suddenly having difficulty eating their favorite food, or avoiding food altogether. The quality of a dear friend’s voice might grow increasingly hoarse. They may cough a lot and have recurring respiratory infections. All of these situations could point to dysphagia.

Dysphagia can arise from a wide variety of causes including:

  • Stroke and other cerebral vascular accidents
  • Traumatic head injury
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Meningitis and brain tumors
  • Head, neck and esophageal cancers and their treatment (e.g., radiation)
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease or ALS)
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Muscular dystrophy
  • Myasthenia gravis
  • Respiratory conditions (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
  • Weakness due to a decreased medical condition

VitalStim® Therapy

Very few treatment options have been available until recently, and most have not been very effective. VitalStim Therapy is a safe and effective treatment for patients with dysphagia.

This therapy is designed to help swallowing through the use of Neuromuscular Electrical Stimulation (NMES). Electrical stimulation is used to aid muscle strengthening to rehabilitate the swallow. The sensory stimulation that is provided also helps muscle recruitment and swallowing function.

You may be a candidate for VitalStim Therapy if you show one or more of the following signs and symptoms:

  • Coughing/clearing throat after swallowing
  • Abnormal volitional cough
  • Decreased voice quality (wet, hoarse, weak)
  • Recurring chest infections
  • Multiple swallow or special maneuvers required to clear throat
  • Difficulty completing a meal
  • Feeling of food being stuck in the throat
  • Modified diet required (thickening, pureeing food, soft solids)
  • Difficulty initiating a swallow
  • Spilling food or liquid from lips and/or drooling

A VitalStim Therapy program is typically administered three to five days per week for one hour. Most patients can expect their treatment program to last for one month.

Your physician must write a prescription for you to receive VitalStim Therapy.

If you are interested in being evaluated for VitalStim Therapy talk to your doctor and request a referral to Jupiter Medical Center’s Rehabilitation & Wellness Services.

For more information, or to request an appointment, call 561-263-5775.