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VitalStim® Therapy & Swallowing

What is VitalStim®?

VitalStim® Therapy System is a safe and effective treatment for patients suffering with difficulty swallowing or dysphagia.

What is Dysphagia?

Dysphagia is defined as a difficulty swallowing.  Dysphagia can range in severity from mild difficulty when swallowing to complete inability to eat or drink anything by mouth.  Estimates conclude that as many as 15 million Americans suffer from some level of dysphagia, with an additional 1 million people receiving a new diagnosis every year.  Dysphagia can arise from a wide variety of causes which can include:

  • Stroke and other cerebral vascular accidents
  • Traumatic head injury
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Meningitis and brain tumors
  • Head, neck, and esophageal cancers and their treatment (e.g. radiation)
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s Disease or ALS)
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Polymyositis
  • Muscular Dystrophy
  • Myasthenia Gravis
  • Respiratory Conditions (e.g. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease)
  • Weakness due to a decreased medical condition

Who can benefit from VitalStim®?

VitalStim® can be used for both adults and for children.

Dysphagia is especially prevalent among the elderly; however children may also be diagnosed with dysphagia.  To determine the need for a treatment such as VitalStim® in children, a videofluoroscopic swallow study is performed.  The swallow study will determine if the child is aspirating (small amount of food or liquid enters the airway during swallowing) or having other swallowing difficulties that may be improved by the use of VitalStim during feeding therapy.

Who is qualified to perform VitalStim®?

Speech language pathologists and occupational therapists who have become certified to administer VitalStim® are qualified.  At Alpha Rehab, our speech language pathologist completes all VitalStim® and other swallowing treatments.

What is a VitalStim® Session Like?

Sessions are typically 30-45 minutes in length and are scheduled 1-5 times per week depending on the needs of the patient.  Attendance will be very important to ensure you receive maximum benefit from the program.  Each VitalStim® session begins by putting electrodes (small stickers with wires connected to the VitalStim® device) on the front of your neck.  The sensation will feel like “tugging and pulling.”  Most people, including children, are able to tolerate the therapy with little difficulty and every attempt will be made to make you or your child as comfortable as possible.  For children, it is important that your hcild is hungry during VitalStim® sessions because they will be encouraged to eat/swallow as much as possible.  Clinical observations as well as follow-up videofluoroscopic swallow studies are used to track your child’s progress.

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