The Shore Health System Swallowing Center, now open at the Diagnostic and Imaging Center in Easton, gives Mid-Shore residents hope if they suffer from a swallowing disorder.
Dysphagia, a medical term for difficulty in swallowing, is a common occurrence in stroke victims. It is also commonly experienced as a result of radiation for head and neck cancers, neurological illnesses, aging, and injuries to the brain, head or neck. Untreated, dysphagia can lead to aspiration pneumonia, which is inflammation of the lungs and airways to the lungs from breathing in foreign material such as food.
“Once you lose the muscle strength that controls swallowing, it’s hard to get it back. We are excited to be able to work with our patients to help them return to safe, enjoyable and satisfying eating, drinking and speech – important elements of everyday living,” says Malinda Larrimore, MA, CCC-SLP, speech-language pathologist for Shore Health System.
Thanks to the purchase of a $60,000 digital swallowing station, the Swallowing Center streamlines care for patients who can receive their swallowing study and therapy in the same place. This technology was purchased thanks to a $20,000 donation from the Memorial Hospital Auxiliary and a $40,000 gift from the Memorial Hospital Foundation.
“We are so grateful for support from the Memorial Hospital Foundation and the Memorial Hospital Auxiliary. The purchase of this technology improves the accessibility of skilled services to so many people who have dysphagia in the region,” said Teresa Blem, PT, Director for Shore Rehabilitation Services. “Being able to send the digital images we capture on the station securely through the Internet lets our patients receive treatment from specialists anywhere in the country while they continue to get their speech therapy close to home. It really is amazing technology to have here on the Mid-Shore.”
Performed by an experienced speech therapist and a radiologist trained in fluoroscopy, a swallow study takes real-time moving images of the internal structures of the body. Those images are then read by the therapist and radiologist, who together to determine next steps for therapy and treatment of dysphasia. Patients can also view the digital images of their studies to see their swallowing function and the progress they are making as they participate in therapy.
According to Larrimore, this technology is helpful to both the patients and their healthcare providers. “It is a very motivating factor for patients to be able to see firsthand how their therapy is improving their swallowing function, says Larrimore. “When you combine that with being able to fine-tune the type of information we learn about our patients, the technology lets us provide them more therapy in a shorter period of time, which ultimately results in a more rapid improvement in their condition.”
The Swallowing Center is located at 10B Martin Court in Easton. For more information, call 410-822-1000, ext. 2525 or 410-822-3080.