McLaren Health Care
Vitalstim Therapy

Vitalstim Therapy

McLaren's Rehabilitation Services offers Vital-Stim therapy to help patients with dysphagia, or difficulty swallowing. Dysphagia affects approximately 15 million Americans, and one in 17 people will develop some form of dysphagia in his or her lifetime.

Individuals affected by the following may receive a diagnosis of dysphagia, or difficulty swallowing:

  • Stroke
  • Head and neck cancer
  • Degenerative neurological conditions such as Parkinson's disease
  • Respiratory conditions

If not properly managed, dysphagia can lead to choking, malnutrition, dehydration and even death. Patients with severe dysphagia often rely on alternative methods to obtain nourishment, such as feeding tubes, which significantly impacts quality of life. Traditional dysphagia therapy techniques include diet modifications, positioning techniques and specific swallowing maneuvers. Thermal stimulation has also been utilized in many patients to improve the swallow reflex response.

What is Vital-Stim Therapy?

Vital-Stim therapy is a new, FDA-approved therapeutic intervention for use in the treatment of dysphagia. Unlike traditional treatment techniques, Vital-Stim uses non-invasive, external electrical stimulation to re-train the throat muscles essential for swallowing. This new treatment technique directly improves the musculature of the swallow thereby improving the swallowing function.

How long do treatments last?

Vital-Stim therapy treatments are usually completed in 60-minute sessions and repeated daily until swallowing patterns have been restored to optimum level. The average length of treatment ranges from six to 20 sessions, depending on the severity of dysphagia.

[McLaren's speech-language pathologist (SLP) is specifically trained in the treatment of dysphagia using Vital-Stim therapy. Patients will receive an in-depth evaluation and consultation by the SLP to determine if Vital-Stim therapy could be beneficial. Once the evaluation is completed, a personal rehabilitation plan will be established and implemented.

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