(Neuromuscular Electrical Stimulation)
What is VitalStim Therapy?
A trained, certified specialist uses a device that provides a small current that passes through external electrodes on the anterior neck or cheek, while trying to stimulate atrophied / inactive muscles for swallowing. Patients with dysphagia that may struggle with chewing, initiating a swallow, or show signs of penetration, silent aspiration or aspiration with various food consistencies can remediate their ability to swallow with this treatment approach.
Aspiration is the medical term for inhaling small particles of food, drops of liquid or stomach content into the lungs. Aspiration pneumonia is one of the leading causes of death among the elderly. A large percentage of pneumonia arises from aspiration. It is the fifth leading cause of death of Americans over the age of 65, and the third leading cause of death in those over 85. (LaCroix et al. 1989)
Silent Aspiration is the movement of a liquid, solid bolus or stomach content into the trachea below the vocal cords, without clinical signs such as choking, color change, or change in respiration.
VitalStim is appropriate for all ages from newborn to geriatric!
Who is a typical patient?
- Brain injury / insult
- Post tracheostomy decannulation
- Long term vent dependent patients
- Head and neck cancer post radiation and/or surgery
- De-conditioning as a result of age or co-morbidity
- Neurological degenerative disease
How Do I Receive VitalStim?
- Physician must write a prescription that says VitalStim
- Contact a speech language pathologist that is certified
- A clinical evaluation will be performed to determine if one is a candidate
- For more information please visit vitalstimtherapy.com
VitalStim Therapy Sessions
- To be most effective, therapy is recommended a minimum of 2X times a week at a duration of 1 hour; however, research has shown improvement for 1X per week with swallowing exercises to be conducted within the home environment.
- Parents/caregivers are encouraged to be involved in therapy for the child to get the most out of the sessions.
- Each session begins by placing electrodes on a child’s neck, and sometimes their cheeks. The child may feel a slight “pins and needles” sensation. As the input is increased, the sensation feels more like “tugging and pulling.” Most children tolerate the therapy with little difficulty. Every attempt is made to make the child as comfortable as possible.
- To determine the most effective placement of electrodes for therapy, initial evaluation can include a modified barium swallow (MBS) study. This assesses a patient’s oral-pharyngeal stage of the swallow and determines where the breakdown in the swallow occurs (however, therapy can be initiated without one). The swallow study will determine if your child is aspirating (small amount of food or liquid enters the airway during swallowing) or having other swallowing difficulties.
- A swallow evaluation conducted with the therapist will be performed as well to determine what oral motor, feeding, and swallowing techniques should be implemented in conjunction with VitalStim therapy.
Children who may benefit from VitalStim
Children of all ages may benefit, especially:
- Children that have oral/pharyngeal dysphagia
- Children that are tube-dependent for all nutrition
- A child who has experienced:
- Bell’s palsy
- Cerebral palsy
- Cleft Lip and Palate
- Down Syndrome
- Failure to Thrive
- Prader-Willi Syndrome
- Respiratory failure resulting in tracheostomy or ventilator dependency
- Spinal Muscular Atrophy
- Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
- Various Chromosomal Disorder