KayPENTAX is proud to have sponsored the 7th Annual KayPENTAX Lecture in Upper Airway Science, The Golden Age of Dysphagia Management: From iPhones to Laryngeal Transplantation, presented by Dr. Peter Belafsky, from the University of California, Davis, at the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) Convention this past November. Developed by SIG 3: Voice and Voice Disorders and SIG 13: Swallowing and Swallowing Disorders (Dysphagia), who jointly select the speaker each year, the lecture highlighted some of the innovation in dysphagia diagnosis and management over the past decade.
Diagnostic advances notwithstanding, Belafsky espouses the need for further progress with regard to the treatment of profound swallowing disorders/dysfunction, stating: “It’s an extremely disabling condition that doesn’t receive the attention or research funding it deserves. For something this common, it is inexcusable for profound swallowing dysfunction to fly under the radar of the international medical community.”
Belafsky’s group has engineered a three-tiered approach to advancing the field, the first of which is to increase patient and community awareness and education. To achieve that goal, they created a documentary on patients with dysphagia, which premiered on YouTube just over 10 weeks ago. The documentary was filmed and directed by Steve Rosenfield and already boasts nearly 10,000 viewers. To view the short, use the following link: youtube.com/watch?v=MrbEUDO6S5U. Said Belafsky, “The documentary serves a very important function and promotes our mission to raise awareness and make a difference.”
The second approach involves prevention. In that regard, the team at UC Davis has developed an application for the iPhone and iPad, called iSwallow™. Designed to utilize the latest technology in mobile computing apps to improve clinician availability and patient compliance, this personal rehabilitation assistant serves to address the need created by “the vast shortage of swallowing clinicians, especially SLPs, to take care of our aging population,” acknowledged Belafsky. “Clinicians,” he noted, “can use iSwallow as an adjunct to administer therapy virtually,” and in so doing fulfill our goal of “helping as many people as possible.” It is available free of charge from the iTunes store at: itunes.apple.com/us/app/iswallow/id417088543?mt=8.
The third tier is to introduce and develop innovative treatments for profound swallowing problems. To this end, Belafsky is pursuing a number of new initiatives, including a novel cell therapy to improve tongue strength with Stacey Halum, M.D., at Indiana University, and Emily Plowman, Ph.D., CCC-SLP, at the University of South Florida.
Belafsky is also developing a new type of esophageal dilator and a swallow expansion device, which mechanically opens the upper esophageal sphincter, and is detailed on CNET at http://news.cnet.com/8301-27083_3-20024189-247.html. Also being evaluated is a device that suctions food out of the hypopharynx from below. This retrograde esophageal suction device, called REScue, will be presented at the Dysphagia Research Society in March.
Equally exciting is Visitube, an endoscopically based system that makes the delivery of feeding tubes safer and more comfortable for patients requiring enteral nutritional support. In fact, Belafsky reports, “Visitube is the safest and most effective enteral feeding tube delivery system ever reported in clinical trial.”
It is Belafsky's desire to continue to improve the lives of the millions suffering from swallowing dysfunction through awareness, prevention, and innovation. He calls on the young dysphagia clinicians in the medical trenches to show initiative, be innovative, and usher in a new era of lateral thinking in dysphagia management.