Treating dysphasia

Patients diagnosed with dysphasia are often suffer from extreme nerve or muscle damage, and often need to learn how to swallow again. Biofeedback technology is helping scientists realize what is going on in a patient’s body, and offering a roadmap to rehab.

TRANSCRIPT

Patients diagnosed with dysphagia suffer from extreme nerve or muscle damage and often need to learn how to swallow again.

Biofeedback technology is helping speech pathologists visualize what's going on in a patient's body, and offering a roadmap to rehab.

Here's the story.

Let's bring it all the way back down.

My swallowing problems started about a little over two years ago.

Richard Kennedy has dysphagia, a swallowing disorder usually caused by muscle or nerve damage.

Over the age of 60, half of all people will experience some kind of difficulty swallowing.

So it really is an issue that we should all care about and be aware of.

Oh, I'm feeling great.

Are you ready to do a little bit of exercise?

Yes.

Okay.

Like anyone would be, it really affected him not being able to eat or drink.

He would tell me stories about, 'Oh, we used to go.

I used to go with my dad to the ballpark and eat hot dogs, and I wish I could have a hot dog,' or, you know, 'my mom made the best hamburgers, and I wish I could have a hamburger,' and you hurt for them.

Okay, so I'm just putting this on.

This is a sensor.

It's going to tell me and tell him about muscle movement.

The system is called Synchrony, and what it is, is it's a biofeedback machine.

So we place an electrode on the neck.

When she put the electrode on me, it tickles me.

Synchrony uses biofeedback signals to create a visual representation of what's happening when a patient swallows.

It provides information that is translated through a wireless connection to a computer screen.

And then it gives us a printout that we can see in real time, and that helps the therapist to see and it also helps the patient to see.

Wait until you get there and then take a drink.

By incorporating game-based exercise activities, the program assists speech language pathologists in getting patients to reestablish normal nerve and muscle firing patterns.

If you can show them with that visual, 'Okay, that was close, but not quite,' and then finally they get it and you're like, 'That was it!'

And they can see it, and then they try to replicate that same pattern on the graph.

They really can make some quick progress.

They don't have as much guesswork, and you don't have as much guesswork as we used to.

Only after she put electrodes on me did I see the graph to actually see the results of me swallowing slower.

When you see what you're doing on a graph -

Wait a minute.

It simplifies it.

A long time ago, we really didn't have much to offer people with swallowing problems.

Then electrical simulation came along, and that was a really big step forward.

The component that we are lacking is some kind of objective data that you can have on a session by session basis, to see what was actually happening, and that's what this has provided.

In the past, you would say, 'Do an effortful swallow,' and they say, 'Okay, I did it.'

And you thought they did it, but, I mean, really, how can you objectively know if they really did it or not?

And this gives you a visual that you can see.

Relax, though, and then a hard swallow.

All the time that I couldn't swallow, I missed water.

And then when my throat was eligible for real water, just swallowing real water today, it's wonderful.

[ Chuckles ]

To see him progress from not having anything, to the point he is now, where he can have anything he wants to eat or drink.

It's really a wonderful thing, and he's just thrilled with it.

He's come out of his shell and just loving life.

We're a story to tell to the nation, that I want everybody to know that this lady knows how to get me to swallow.