Dysphagia treatment consists of non-imaging procedures and imaging studies to identify swallowing disorders.
One type of non-imaging procedure is a bedside swallow evaluation which an SLP would do in a person's hospital room.
During this procedure an SLP gives the patient a few different things to eat and drink.
Each type of food or liquid has a different thickness. This helps the SLP determine if a person has an easy or hard time swallowing it.
A thin liquid (like water) is harder to swallow because it moves very fast in the mouth and splashes down the throat.
A thicker liquid (honey or puree applesauce) moves slower and allows more time for parts in the throat to react and cover the airway.
To determine the appropriate dysphagia treatment...
...an SLP observes the person while eating to see:
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If an SLP suspects dysphagia, they will confirm it by doing an image study.
A modified barium swallow study (MBS) is one type of imaging study SLPs use to diagnose dysphagia. See what an MBS looks like.
This is done through moving X-rays. The patient sits in a chair and has an X-ray machine placed near their throat.
The Radiologist (X-ray doctor) or technician does the X-rays, while the SLP feeds the patient different amounts of various food and liquid that are mixed with a substance called liquid barium.
Barium has barium sulphate in it that X-rays cannot pass through. As a result the food or liquid shows up in a moving X-ray.
This allows the Radiologist and the SLP to see if food or liquid is going into the patient's airway.
From start to finish, a swallow takes approximately 1 - 2.5 seconds. For this reason, swallow studies can be recorded to make sure the SLP and Radiologist see everything that happens.
Once a swallow study is completed the SLP will determine how mild or severe the problem is, and determine the necessary type of dysphagia treatment.
Then the SLP can:
During therapy an SLP would help a person with dysphagia by: