About Oropharyngeal Dysphagia
Swallowing disorders can make it difficult for you to drink liquids without choking, or can cause you to feel like food is stuck in your throat. You may experience frequent coughing or gagging while eating. Swallowing problems can lead to:
- Aspiration pneumonia (an inflammation of your lungs and bronchial tubes caused by a foreign object)
- Upper respiratory infections
- Weight loss
- Painful swallowing
We have the expertise and resources to diagnose your condition and help you eat and drink more efficiently, with less fear of choking.
Diagnostic Tests for Oropharyngeal Dysphagia
During this assessment, we will discuss your medical history as it relates to dysphagia, ask questions about your symptoms, and observe you swallowing various foods and liquids to look for signs of swallowing difficulty.
Fiberoptic Endoscopic Evaluation of Swallowing
A flexible endoscope (a small camera with a light) is passed through your nose. It allows your provider to observe while you swallow dyed foods and liquids. You may be asked to try different swallowing positions so your provider can see how they impact your ability to swallow foods of different consistencies.
Videofluoroscopic Swallow Study (VFSS) or Modified Barium Swallow (MBS)
A speech-language pathologist works with a radiologist to perform a radiographic evaluation of your swallowing function. Moving X-ray images of the mouth, throat, and esophagus are taken while you try different swallowing positions and consistencies of food and liquid mixed with barium.
A barium liquid is swallowed and travels the length of your esophagus. X-ray images show problems such as narrowed areas and other concerns, such as how food and liquid travel through your esophagus.
Oropharyngeal Dysphagia Treatments
Rehabilitative Swallowing Exercises
Swallowing is complex and requires coordination of muscles and nerves. A personalized program will be designed to strengthen and increase coordination of your swallowing muscles so you experience safer, more efficient swallowing.
Compensatory Swallowing Techniques
We teach you techniques to make eating easier and safer. Techniques can include swallowing liquids after solids to wash food down your throat or changing the position of your head and neck when eating. We may also recommend dietary changes, such as adding a thickening agent to make liquids easier to swallow.
Botulinum toxin, or Botox, can treat certain swallowing problems by relaxing the upper esophageal sphincter, a muscular valve between the esophagus and throat.
Surgery may be recommended if a disorder, such as vocal cord paralysis, is present that impairs swallowing.