Dysphagia: Feeding Tubes

DysphagiaOver the past few weeks we’ve discussed dysphagia, difficulty swallowing food or liquid which can often follow a stroke or other neurological injury. When a person has dysphagia, a speech-language pathologist is typically involved in treatment, providing swallow exercises and compensation strategies. Diet modification is also commonly recommended, changing the texture of foods and liquids to make them easier and safer to swallow. However, in some cases, swallowing therapy and diet modification aren’t enough. In this case, your speech-language pathologist or physician may recommend a feeding tube.

A feeding tube is implanted directly into the stomach so that the patient can receive liquid and nutrition can be sent directly to the stomach and bypass the mouth or throat. A feeding tube may be recommended because a patient is not able to eat or drink enough to meet their nutritional needs by mouth; in this case, a feeding tube may be necessary to prevent malnutrition or dehydration. Patients who are at severe risk of aspiration (food or liquid entering the lungs) may also be candidates for a feeding tube. A feeding tube can also be used to administer medication.

Often patients and families are uncomfortable with the prospect of a feeding tube. Many people associate feeding tubes with end-of-life care and are worried that they or their loved one will never be able to eat again. However, in many cases, a feeding tube may be a temporary solution while a patient is recovering. Depending on their particular situation, many patients are candidates for eventual removal of a feeding tube and transition back to an oral diet. While the tube is in place, a speech-language pathologist will work with the patient to trial different portions and textures of food and liquid. If trials are successful over a period of time, the tube may be removed, and the patient can resume taking food and liquid by mouth.

Do you or does someone you love have experience with feeding tubes? Share your story in the comment section below!

For information on our New York based Speech-Language Pathology services, please call Speech Associates of New York today at (212) 308-7725 or visit our website at http://www.speechassociatesofny.com and find out how our team of professionally trained and certified speech-language pathologists can help!

© 2014, Speech Associates of New York – All Rights Reserved

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