Anyone who has difficulty swallowing is encouraged to consider a new service at Pawnee Valley Community Hospital, said Somary Vilaysing, speech/language pathologist (SLP).
PVCH now offers a procedure that determines how the swallowing mechanism is working, as well as what type of diet would be the safest and most nutritious.
“If a swallowing disorder is left untreated, additional concerns could result,” Vilaysing said. “These include weight loss, malnutrition, dehydration and aspiration pneumonia.”
Symptoms of a swallowing disorder, or dysphagia, include: coughing or throat-clearing after consuming food or liquids; inability to swallow; feeling that something is stuck in the throat or chest; drooling; hoarseness; regurgitation; weight loss; and recurrent pneumonia.
“Possible causes are conditions that affect the nervous system such as stroke, dementia, Parkinson’s disease, ALS, cancer and reflux disease,” Vilaysing outlined. “Overall, dysphagia can result from any condition that causes muscle weakness, or damages the muscles and nerves used for swallowing.”
The new service at PVCH is a Flexible Endoscopic Evaluation of Swallowing (FEES). It can be an inpatient or outpatient procedure, depending on the circumstances.
The FEES study includes trials of liquid in small quantities, along with regular solid food of mixed consistencies, including puree. For this study, Vilaysing relies on her skills not only as an SLP but also as a certified FEES endoscopist.
“The study allows me to determine the timing of the swallow, and the foods and liquids the patient has difficulty swallowing,” Vilaysing explained. “It allows a view of the larynx and pharynx for abnormalities, while also telling us about vocal cord abnormalities, signs of reflux, abnormal coloration and cysts.”
The results of FEES may allow the patient to get off of altered diets, such as thickened liquids or pureed foods, which are costly and can cause complications, she added.
“A swallowing study is so important for safety and dietary reasons,” Vilaysing noted. “We want to reduce the risk of aspiration, and decide on a course of treatment for strengthening muscle groups, while devising other strategies that work best for a specific patient.
“Our hospital should be commended for offering this service right here at home for the convenience of our patients and their families,” she added.
Another type of swallow procedure is called Modified Barium Swallow Study (MBSS). Those who want this type of study are often referred to HaysMed, where a radiologist and SLP team up to perform an MBSS.
Those interested in a swallow study are encouraged to talk with their primary-care providers about a referral.
Melanie Urban, PVCH administrator, noted the FEES study is another example of the hospital “bringing the best healthcare services possible to local and area residents. As the leader of rural health in our community, PVCH is committed to helping our patients achieve long-term health and wellness right here at home.”
Pawnee Valley Community Hospital, 923 Carroll in Larned, is a 25-bed facility, offering many services not typically available in a smaller facility. Included are 24/7 emergency care; acute, skilled and specialized nursing; surgery; high-tech imaging and laboratory tests; wound care; rehabilitation; and sleep and diagnostic center. The Pawnee Valley Medical Associates clinic, 713 W. 11th, provides the full range of family-medicine services; physician-assisted weight loss; and women’s health services. The hospital’s number is 620-285-3161; the clinic’s number is 620-804-6007.