A VitalStim® Therapy program is typically administered 3 to 5 days per week for one hour. Most patients can expect their VitalStim® Therapy program to last one month.
A typical session begin the dysphagia therapists cleansing the skin with a special alcohol swab. Sometimes, moist heat and massage will be applied to improve the effects of the treatment. The dysphagia therapist will then attach the electrodes to the neck.
Once turned on, the VitalStim® device provides stimulation to the target muscles. At this time, your therapist will coach you through active swallowing exercises that include: “Swallow hard, swallow fast” and “swallow in a single contraction”. These swallows will include food and liquids that are deemed appropriate by your dysphagia therapist.
What To Expect When You Are Receiving VitalStim Therapy
If you’ve been diagnosed with dysphagia, you probably have a lot of questions. Dysphagia is defined as difficulty in swallowing. Patients with dysphagia usually exhibit signs of penetration or aspiration (food or liquid getting into the lungs), muscle weakness and difficulty managing a normal diet. An impaired swallow often results in feeding restrictions, which in turn contribute to a decline in quality of life.
Am I A Candidate For VitalStim Therapy?
If you show signs of aspiration or have difficulty managing your diet, you may be a candidate for dysphagia therapy. Look for one or more of the following signs and symptoms:
- Coughing/clearing throat after swallowing
- Abnormal volitional cough
- Decreased voice quality (wet, hoarse, weak)
- Recurring chest infections
- Multiple swallows or special maneuvers required to clear throat
- Difficulty completing a meal
- Feeling of food being stuck in the throat
- Modified diet required (thickening, pureeing food; soft solids)
- Difficulty initiating a swallow
- Spilling food or liquid from lips and/or drooling