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An Innovative Approach to Pediatric Swallowing Disorders

March 29, 2012

positive sleep habits

Does your child have difficulty swallowing food and drink? Is your child dependent on a feeding tube for all or most of his nutrition? Does your child suffer from aspiration of food or drink?

Besides the obvious benefits of nutrition and energy, he or she may be missing out on social interactions that often surround the act of eating. Many children with multiple medical conditions have difficulty eating and swallowing age-appropriate foods; therefore, they are missing the pleasurable and social experience of enjoying food and drink.

Children may be diagnosed with dysphagia, difficulty swallowing, for a number of reasons including, but not limited to, congenital disorders such as Down syndrome and cerebral palsy, prematurity, traumatic brain injury and structural deficits.

Good Shepherd Outpatient Pediatrics provides innovative dysphagia and feeding therapy for children of all ages who have difficulty swallowing, are feeding-tube dependent and/or have difficulty advancing food textures. Vital Stim therapy is a safe and effective treatment for those suffering with dysphagia. It is a non-evasive, external electrical stimulation therapy cleared to market by the Food and Drug Administration.

How does it work?

  • Small electrodes connected to an electrical stimulation device are placed on the neck of the patient.
  • The electrodes emit very small electrical impulses that stimulate the swallowing muscles.
  • Intensity is increased to a satisfactory level and the therapist commences traditional exercise therapy with the patient.

How do I know if my child is a candidate for Vital Stim Therapy?

At Good Shepherd, your child will receive a complete feeding and swallowing evaluation that includes:

  • Assessment of feeding skills by a specialized feeding team, which includes a speech language pathologist and an occupational therapist
  • Review of feeding history and medical records
  • Modified barium swallow study to assess swallow function

After reviewing this information and your child’s medical records, the Vital Stim therapist will decide if your child may benefit from this therapy.

What should I expect from therapy?

  • A certified Vital Stim therapist will administer the treatment.
  • Vital Stim treatment will be combined with active swallowing or oral motor exercises.
  • Therapy is recommended for a minimum of 2 times a week, but more intensive treatment will yield better and faster results.
  • Each session will take up to an hour.
  • In many patients, improvement in the swallowing function starts almost immediately. Patients often see good results in 6 to 20 treatment sessions.
  • Parents/caregivers are encouraged to be actively involved in therapy.

At Good Shepherd Pediatrics, we have certified pediatric speech/language pathologists who offer Vital Stim therapy at our outpatient clinic. These therapists are specifically trained to provide this novel therapy to children. Good Shepherd is one of the few institutions in the area to provide this mode of therapy to the pediatric population.