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 Dysphagia ?

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DYSPHAGIA - means difficulty in swallowing, regardless of the reason.

Swallowing problems have been found to occur in approximately 13 to 14 percent of all hospitalized patients, 40 to 50 percent of all patients in nursing homes and approximately 33 percent of the patients in rehabilitation centers.

This relatively large number of patients with DYSPHAGIA reflects the large number of medical problems which can cause abnormalities in the swallowing mechanism.

Among the more common reasons for swallowing problems are sudden on-set neurologic damage (e.g., stroke, head injury or spinal cord injury), progressive neurologic disease (e.g., Parkinson's disease, motor neuron disease, multiple sclerosis, myasthenia gravis), head and neck tumors and their treatment, and medical problems such as rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma and diabetes.

Normal Swallowing Physiology - Normal swallowing is a rapid, safe, efficient process, taking less than 2 seconds to move food or liquid from the mouth, through the pharynx and into the esophagus, During this brief period, the airway is protected, the entry to the esophagus is opened and food is propelled under pressure from the mouth and pharynx into the esophagus.

The Problem - Lung infiltration by food or liquid may be related to a slowing of the swallowing mechanism and the premature spillage of materials into the airway.

The Current Solution - Standard and normal clinical practice may be to restrict the intake of thin liquids or to thicken liquids for the patients that aspirate thin liquids.

Tucking the chin toward the chest, and not tilting the head back while drinking, increases the time of transit from the mouth to the esophagus and gives the patient a better opportunity to protect his airway.

Drinking Glasses and Mugs - The drinking containers that are commonly used may not be emptied without head tilting and may be contributing to hidden lung problems.

Typically the drinking containers that are larger in diameter at the bottom are more stable, harder to knock over, and more difficult to drink from. This type of container is even more difficult to use when you have to drink thickened liquids from it. This tapered shape, being smaller in diameter at the top, makes it difficult to clean and harder to hold for anyone.

The handles on most cups and mugs are more stylish than functional. They are either so small that only the daintiest of hands may use them or their shape encourages the cup to rotate and slip in your fingers.


Copyright 1998 Stevens Innovative Products & Systems Inc.
Last modified: August 29, 2000