What is VitalStim therapy?
A therapeutic intervention for the management of dysphagia (difficulty swallowing). VitalStim is the only neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES) technology cleared by the FDA to restore swallowing function to patients with oropharyngeal dysphagia. This 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.
How It Works
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.
How is VitalStim different from conventional therapy?
Conventional therapy for dysphagia typically employs both compensatory strategy techniques (diet changes, head positioning or modifying bite size) and specific techniques aimed at improving the coordination and strength of the swallowing muscles (thermal stimulation, biofeedback and exercises). 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.
VitalStim treatment is generally more intensive to start than conventional therapy. Sessions range from 45-60 mins at a minimum of three to five times per week. Results are expected in 8-12 weeks at this frequency.
Who is a candidate for VitalStim therapy?
VitalStim is approved for all ages. It is generally recommended for individuals with motor- or sensorimotor-based oropharyngeal dysphagia. In most cases, a Video Swallow Study (VFSS, MBS, etc.) is recommended prior to initiation of treatment.
Contraindications for VitalStim
There are a few conditions in which VitalStim therapy is not recommended, or contraindicated, such as for individuals with pacemakers or active neoplasms (cancers) in the head/neck region. Please consult with a liscensed speech language pathologist to find out if you are a possible candidate.