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Frequently Asked Questions

1) What is dysphagia?
Dysphagia is defined as difficulty swallowing. Symptoms of dysphagia can include coughing while swallowing or after swallowing, choking on food or liquid, the sensation of food getting stuck in the throat, pain during swallowing, shortness of breath during feeding and onset of pneumonia.

2) What is VitalStim Therapy?
A therapeutic intervention for the management of dysphagia and difficulty swallowing. VitalStim Therapy uses small electrical currents to stimulate the muscles responsible for swallowing. At the same time, trained specialists help patients "re-educate" their muscles through rehabilitation therapy.

3) How does it work?
A small, carefully calibrated current is delivered to the motor nerves of the patient's throat through specially designed electrodes causing the muscles responsible for swallowing to contract. At the same time, a dysphagia specialist guides the patient through active swallowing therapy to re-educate normal swallow function.

4) How is VitalStim different from conventional swallowing therapy?
Conventional therapy for dysphagia typically employs both compensatory strategy techniques (diet changes, head positioning or modifying bolus size) and specific techniques aimed at improving the coordination and strength of the swallowing muscles (thermal stimulation, biofeedback, mendelssohn maneuver or supraglottic swallow). VitalStim Therapy is the use of electrical stimulation for activation of muscles. Research shows that the combination of electrical stimulation and traditional treatment techniques is very effective at restoring swallowing function.

5) How long is a treatment session?
Treatment session may last anytime from 30 to 60 minutes.

6) How many sessions of VitalStim treatment before my swallowing improves?
This depends a lot on the underlying medical problem causing the dysphagia. In many patients, improvement in the swallowing function starts almost immediately. Patients often see good results in 6 to 20 treatment sessions. 

7) Does this work with all forms of dysphagia?
One of the most common forms of dysphagia is oropharyngeal dysphagia which affects stroke survivors, patients with progressive neuromuscular disorders, head and neck cancer survivors and the elderly.

8) Does VitalStim Therapy hurt?
No. VitalStim Therapy is a non-invasive, painless treatment.

9) Is VitalStim Therapy safe?
Yes. VitalStim Therapy is the only technology cleared by the FDA ( Federal Drug Administration ) USA,  for restoring the swallowing function to patients with oropharyngeal dysphagia.

10) Who can receive VitalStim Therapy?
VitalStim Therapy is effective for both sexes and all ages.

11) Who cannot receive VitalStim Therapy?
VitalStim Therapy should not be used directly over an active neoplasm or infection. It should be used with caution in patients with seizure disorders and patients with implanted electronics (e.g., pacemakers, implantable defibrillators, deep brain stimulators). Some patients may not respond well to VitalStim Therapy. This may include patients with significant lower motor neuron damage and patients with severely impaired cognition. A certified VitalStim clinician can give you more information about candidacy for this treatment.

12) What about patients with pacemakers?
Caution should be used with patients who have cardiac demand pacemakers.

13) What are the side effects of VitalStim Treatment?
The only problematic issue found during the study was the occasional occurrence of skin irritation as a result of the adhesive used to secure the stimulation electrode to the anterior portion of the neck.

14) How effective is VitalStim Therapy?
Multiple studies indicate that VitalStim Therapy is safe and effective and that the addition of electrotherapy to dysphagia therapy significantly enhances outcomes. Click here to view a summary document of the various papers in print. (link to the research summary) Additionally, the FDA trial also demonstrated positive treatment outcomes in the majority of the patients.

15) What medical specialists provide VitalStim Therapy?
Medical specialists that commonly specialize in swallowing disorders include Speech-Language Pathologists and Occupational Therapists in America.  In other parts of the world, due to the shortage of dysphagia specialists, the General Practitioner, ENT and Neurologist provide this therapy.  In the UK, the Speech Language Therapists specializes in dysphagia treatment / therapy.

16) Is VitalStim Therapy available in the NHS?
National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has issued full guidance to the NHS in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland on Transcutaneous Neuromuscular Electrical Stimulation (NMES) for oropharyngeal dysphagia, in May 2014.

NICE has provided guidance that recommends NMES (IPG490) should be used with special arrangements for clinical governance, consent, audit or research.

17) Where can I find a facility that offers VitalStim Therapy?
VITALSTIM UK, 16, Parker Court, Staffordshire Technology Park, Stafford - ST18 0WP, England, United Kingdom

Tel:
 +44(0) 1785 330 662, Fax: +44(0) 1785 211 780

 
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