• Diagnosing and Treating Swallowing Disorders

    Members of the Speech, Voice & Swallowing Center team (left to right): Alison Gudis Jackson, MS, CCC-SLP; Stacy A. Wordell, MA, CCC-SLP; Rebecca McMenimen, administrative assistant; Timothy D. Anderson, MD; Barbara Davidson, RN; and Eva M. Michalakis, MS, CCC-SLPClinicians at Lahey's Department of Speech Pathology believe that you, the patient, are best served by a multidisciplinary approach to swallowing disorders. This means that you will see a team of swallowing specialists for your initial evaluation and diagnosis. Most patients will initially see an otolaryngologist (ear, nose and throat physician) and a speech-language pathologist (swallowing therapist). We work closely with a number of other specialists, including gastroenterologists, neurologists and allergy/immunology physicians as needed.

    Clinicians at Lahey are among the first in New England to begin using a new diagnostic tool known as FEESST (functional endoscopic evaluation of swallowing with sensory testing). FEESST is performed with a flexible endoscope that has a tiny camera attached. The clinician can view the anatomy, physiology and mechanics of swallowing and assess the patient's ability to protect his or her airway. At the same time, the patient is given various foods and liquids so a comprehensive swallowing evaluation can be performed.

    FEESST can be performed in the office or at the patient's bedside. Depending on the patient's underlying diagnosis, FEESST may be repeated as needed to monitor progress without exposure to radiation such as that used in the traditional method of swallowing evaluation, the modified barium swallow. In some cases, the modified barium swallow may also be necessary. For it, the patient swallows a form of barium while X-rays are taken to assess the oral, pharyngeal and esophageal phases of the swallow.

    Drug therapy, surgery and modification of diet or feeding techniques are all possible treatments for swallowing problems, depending on the cause and severity of the disorder. Your doctor and medical team will work with you to determine the best treatment approach for your particular condition. 
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