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News

Electrical stimulation effective for treating swallowing disorders caused by stroke

Electrical stimulation is a safe and effective treatment for dysphagia due to stroke, and results in a better swallow function than conventional treatment, according to research reported in the May issue of Respiratory Care.

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A team from Ohio and Hawaii, USA, compared the effectiveness and safety of electrical stimulation (ES) treatment to thermal-tactile stimulation (TS) treatment, in patients with dysphagia caused by stroke.

Stroke patients with swallowing disorder were alternately assigned to one of the two treatment groups (TS or ES).

Entry criteria included a primary diagnosis of stroke and confirmation of swallowing disorder by modified barium swallow.

Final swallow scores:
- 98% ES patients improved
- 27% TS stayed the same
- 11% TS became worse
Respiratory Care

TS consisted of touching the base of the anterior faucial arch with a metal probe, chilled by immersion in ice.

ES was administered with a modified hand-held battery-powered electrical stimulator, connected to a pair of electrodes positioned on the neck.

Daily treatments of TS or ES lasted 1 hour.

Swallow function before and after the treatment regimen was scored from 0 (aspirates own saliva) to 6 (normal swallow) based on substances the patients could swallow during a modified barium swallow.

The treatment groups were of similar age and gender, co-morbid conditions, and initial swallow score.

The researchers found that both treatment groups showed improvement in swallow score. However, the final swallow scores were higher in the ES group.

In addition, 98% of ES patients showed some improvement, whereas 27% of TS patients remained at initial swallow score and 11% got worse.

These results were based on similar numbers of treatments (average of 5.5 for ES and 6.0 for TS).

Author Marcy L Freed, of Cleveland, Ohio, concluded on behalf of the group, "ES appears to be a safe and effective treatment for dysphagia due to stroke.

"It results in better swallow function than conventional TS treatment."

Respir Care 2001; 46 (5): 466-74
23 July 2001

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