Swallowing Disorders

Swallowing difficulty, or as physicians identify it, "dysphagia," may present in a variety of ways and may occur for a number of reasons. Because swallowing difficulties can lead to choking when liquid or food leaks into the lungs, this is a serious problem that needs immediate medical assessment and treatment.

Service Overview

The Swallowing Rehabilitation Team at Beaumont is led by your physician and includes a radiologist, nurse and Speech-Language Pathologist. The Swallowing Team designs an individualized plan of treatment.

Dysphagia can occur at different stages in the swallowing process:

  • Oral phase - difficulties with sucking, chewing and propelling food or liquid into the throat
  • Pharyngeal phase - difficulties with initiating the swallowing reflex, moving food down the throat and/or closing the airway to prevent food or liquid from entering the airway (aspiration) or to prevent choking
  • Esophageal phase - difficulties with the transit of food or liquid down the esophagus and into the stomach

Your physician may recommend a clinical swallow evaluation or a Modified Barium Swallow Procedure (MBS) as a way to look at swallowing more closely. The videofluoroscopy MBS procedure is a film of the pathway the food takes from the mouth into the throat and esophagus. The food used in this test is coated with a substance called barium so that the x-ray is easier to see.

Muscle exercises, special eating positions, modified food consistency and individualized treatment procedures can be used to assist patients in redeveloping their swallowing abilities.

Conditions Treated

  • Patients who have strokes and subsequent muscle weakness may have swallowing difficulties
  • Patients with a neuromuscular disorder or weakness from any disability
  • Patients who may have swallowing disorders after surgery

Insurance

Coverage from most major insurance companies is accepted, but coverage for treatment depends on individual insurance benefits.

Benefits

  • Improve nutrition and hydration
  • Decrease risk of pneumonia and chronic lung disease
  • Renew enjoyment of eating and drinking
  • Increase socialization with family and friends