Swallowing Disorders Clinic

The Swallowing Disorder Clinic at Shepherd Center offers a comprehensive program for diagnosis and treatment of people who have mild to complex swallowing problems, known as dysphagia. Serious complications can include choking, malnutrition and lung infections, including pneumonia. Approximately 10 million people in the U.S. are evaluated each year for swallowing difficulties.

What is a swallowing disorder? While there are a couple of types of swallowing disorders, the most common is dysphagia. Dysphagia is characterized by the feeling of food or fluid being regurgitated or stuck in the chest. Meeting with a swallowing disorder specialist is an important step in proper diagnosis and treatment.

What Causes a Swallowing Disorder?

What is a swallowing disorder? Swallowing problems can be caused by a number of things, such as stroke, brain injury or a spinal cord injury that has resulted in reduced coordination and movement of the swallowing mechanism. Because swallowing is a complex process, it's important to see a swallowing disorder specialist or physician and speech-language pathologist who can properly provide a diagnosis.

Swallowing Disorder Symptoms (When to Refer)

Signs and symptoms of dysphagia may include:

  • Frequent coughing, throat clearing associated with eating or drinking
  • Complaint of sensation that food is stuck in throat
  • Difficulty breathing and/or wheezing when eating or drinking
  • Unexplained, low-grade, persistent fever
  • Recurrent pneumonia and/or chest congestion
  • Unexplained weight loss and/or dehydration or malnutrition

The key to proper diagnosis and treatment is early detection. If you or a loved one has symptoms of dysphagia, it’s important to meet with a swallowing disorder specialist at our outpatient swallowing clinic. Contact us today at 404-352-2020.

Associated Conditions That May Cause Swallowing Disorders

Patients who may be appropriate for the outpatient swallowing clinic could be experiencing swallowing problems secondary to:

  • Spinal Cord Injury
  • Brain Injury
  • Stroke
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Transverse Myelitis
  • Head/Neck Surgery
  • Parkinson's Disease
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)
  • Guillain-Barré Syndrome
  • Mechanical Ventilation or Tracheostomy
  • GERD or Reflux
  • Inflammatory myopathies such as dermatomyositis and ployositis
  • Esophageal strictures, achalasia, diffuse esophageal spasm, scleroderma

Diagnosis and Treatment by a Swallowing Disorder Specialist

Shepherd Center uses advanced equipment at our swallowing clinic to determine what is causing your swallowing difficulties and how they can be treated. Specific assessment and treatment modalities at our outpatient clinic may include:

  • Modified Barium Swallow (MBS) study or Fiberoptic Endoscopic Evaluation of Swallowing (FEES)
  • Neuromuscular electrical stimulation and surface EMG for biofeedback to enhance use of traditional swallowing exercises for increased strength and range of motion
  • Referrals to ear, nose and throat specialists for assessment of vocal cord functioning or to a gastro-intestinal physician for dilatation or endoscopy to assess esophageal motility
  • Nutritional consult and diet education
  • Specialized seating and positioning
  • Written report to include interpretation of completed assessments, treatment plan and appropriate referrals