Swallowing and Swallowing Disorders (Dysphagia) - Rehabilitation and Prosthetic Services
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Rehabilitation and Prosthetic Services

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Swallowing and Swallowing Disorders (Dysphagia)

Eating a meal with your family or a friend is a social and pleasurable experience. We rarely think about the complex process of chewing and swallowing while eating or drinking. The process of swallowing one bite of food involves more than 30 nerves and muscles that are carefully coordinated to move the food from the mouth and into the esophagus.

Difficulty swallowing or dysphagia (the medical term for difficulty or inability to swallow) may significantly impact health, nutrition, hydration, coordination of breathing, and isolation. Each year, approximately one in 25 adults in the US will experience a swallowing problem (Bhattacharyya, 2014). Dysphagia may co-exist with a wide variety of neurological and physical medical conditions and requires a careful evaluation. Speech-language pathologists specialize in the evaluation and treatment of oral-pharyngeal dysphagia.

VA Intensive Dysphagia Treatment Program

The primary goal of the Intensive Dysphagia Treatment Program is to restore or maintain safe and effective swallow function. A speech-language pathologist and dietitian will work closely with the Veteran to address nutrition, hydration, and pleasure while eating food or drinking liquids. The Intensive Dysphagia Treatment Program offers Veterans a greater choice and easier access to targeted rehabilitation and follow-up care for swallowing problems. Services may be offered in person at a hospital, outpatient clinic, community living facility, or from the comfort of your own home utilizing telephone or computer technology also known as telehealth.

For additional information:

VHADYSPHAGIATEAM@va.gov

To begin treatment for dysphagia:

Head & Neck Cancer - Dysphagia Treatment Program

Cancer and cancer treatments for the mouth, throat, or esophagus can sometimes have side effects that cause difficulty swallowing. The goals of this program are to maintain swallow function during radiation or chemotherapy for individuals undergoing head and neck cancer treatments and provide a home exercise program to preserve swallow function. An interdisciplinary team will carefully monitor oral intake to assure nutrition and hydration are maintained. Services may be offered in person at a hospital, outpatient clinic, community living facility, or from the comfort of your own home utilizing telephone or computer technology also known as telehealth.

For additional information

VHADYSPHAGIATEAM@va.gov

Eligibility:
  • Enrollment at a VA Medical Center
  • Complaint of difficulty swallowing food, liquid, or medication
  • History of cancer of the mouth or throat (referred to as head & neck cancer)
  • Complete an evaluation with a speech-language pathologist
  • Agreement to participate in an 8-week home exercise program focused on swallowing

Information Sheets
Contact your Primary Care provider if you have symptoms of
  • Trouble swallowing or if your swallowing gets worse
  • Dehydration
  • Shortness of breath or coughing while eating or drinking
National Professional Organizations
  • American Speech-Language and Hearing Association
  • American Board of Swallowing and Swallowing Disorders
  • American Cancer Society
  • National Foundation of Swallowing Disorders


The IDT Program is graciously supported by Geriatrics and Extended Care and the Office of Rural Health. We are proud to be among the high-quality programs supported by these offices.