The Good Shepherd Pediatric Feeding Program offers innovative VitalStim® therapy to treat children with dysphagia, or difficulty swallowing. Specially certified speech language pathologists implement VitalStim® therapy in conjunction with traditional treatments for dysphagia.
What Is VitalStim® Therapy?
VitalStim® therapy is a safe and effective treatment for patients suffering with dysphagia. It is a non-invasive, external electrical stimulation therapy (neuromuscular electrical stimulation) cleared to market by the Food and Drug Administration in 2002.
VitalStim® therapy is designed to be used at the same time as traditional swallowing therapy. A therapist will apply VitalStim® while simultaneously working with the patient on swallowing exercises.
How It Works:
VitalStim® involves the administration of small, electrical impulses to the swallowing muscles in the throat through electrodes attached to the skin. Once the electrodes are placed and current intensity has been increased to a satisfactory level, the therapist begins traditional exercise therapy with the patient. The patient exercises the swallowing muscles for periods of up to one hour while receiving concurrent VitalStim® therapy.
VitalStim®, when applied in this manner, increases muscle strength, accelerates cortical reorganization and increases the effectiveness of the exercise therapy.
Some of the components of therapy include:
- Only certified VitalStim® therapists can administer the treatment.
- The treatment must be combined with active swallowing or oral motor exercises.
- Therapy is recommended a minimum of three times a week.
- Each session lasts up to an hour.
- Parents/caregivers are encouraged to be actively involved in therapy.
Pediatric VitalStim® Therapy May Be Appropriate For:
- Children of all ages
- A child who has oral/pharyngeal dysphagia
- A child who may be tube-dependent for all nutrition
- Children with: stroke, traumatic brain injury (TBI), laryngomalacia, spinal muscular atrophy, cerebral palsy, cleft lip and palate, Down syndrome, Prader-Willi syndrome, failure to thrive, Bell’s palsy and more
The “gold standard” for evaluation is a modified barium swallow (MBS) study. If an MBS study cannot be completed, a functional bedside evaluation may be substituted.
Note: A child may be a perfect VitalStim® candidate based on dysfunction, but aversive behaviors may hinder candidacy.
What to Expect:
In many patients, with intensive treatment, improvement in swallowing function starts almost immediately. The duration of the therapy program varies for each child.
Good Shepherd Health & Technology Center
Pediatrics Program – Middle Level
850 S. 5th Street
Allentown, PA 18103
Contact: For more information, contact Christina Martucci, SLP, at 610-776-8327.