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Speech Therapy

Speech therapy addresses a variety of disorders that can affect our ability to communicate and understand language. If your injury or illness is keeping you from speaking properly, come see our experts at UNC Medical Center’s Speech Therapy.

Available Services

We are home to numerous speech language pathologists, all with the common mission to provide outstanding care to all of our patients and their families. Our medical professionals provide advanced treatment from adult acute care, adult speech pathology, head and neck cancer, Voice Center and pediatric speech pathology. Our skilled therapists provide expert care in the following areas:

  • Swallowing Assessment and Treatment
  • MBSS (Modified Barium Swallow Study)
  • FEES (Fiberoptic Endoscopic Evaluation of Swallowing)
  • Passy Muir Speaking Valve Trials
  • Speech and Language Evaluations and Treatment
  • Voice Evaluation
  • Pediatric Feeding Evaluation
  • Laryngectomy Care
  • Trismus Management

Adult Acute Care

Services for Adult Acute Care includes:

  • Swallowing Assessment and Treatment
  • MBSS (Modified Barium Swallow Study) – An x-ray video is taken while the patient swallows different consistencies of food and liquids that contain barium as a contrast material. A speech pathologist administers the food and liquids during the study, then reviews and interprets the video and makes diet recommendations.
  • FEES (Fiberoptic Endoscopic Evaluation of Swallowing) – A speech pathologist passes a small scope through the patient's nose and down along the back wall of the throat. The study assesses the symptoms causing difficulties with swallowing, often referred as dysphagia.
  • Passy Muir Speaking Valve Trials – This trial uses a one-way valve that fits onto the hub of a tracheostomy tube. During a speaking valve trial the speech pathologist assesses the patient's ability to tolerate the valve. Benefits include a louder voice, improved swallow, stronger cough, and increased oxygenation.
  • Cognitive-linguistic Evaluations and Treatment – Assessment of patients with traumatic or acquired brain injury, including concussion, tumors, strokes, and hypoxic/anoxic brain injury, and neurodegenerative diseases. Therapists perform informal and standardized testing of cognitive-linguistic functions including attention, memory, executive functioning, and speech/language.

Outpatient Services

Our speech pathologists provide services to children and adults who have experienced stroke, traumatic brain injury (TBI), and other complex disorders. Services are provided in the Center Rehabilitation Care (CRC).

Pediatric Speech Pathology

UNC provides the following both inpatient and outpatient pediatric speech pathology services:

  • Swallowing assessments
  • Feeding assessments
  • FEES (Fiberoptic Endoscopic Evaluation of Swallowing) – A speech pathologist passes a small scope through the patient's nose and down along the back wall of the throat. The study assesses the symptoms causing difficulties with swallowing, often referred as dysphagia.
  • MBSS (Modified Barium Swallow Study) – An x-ray video is taken while the patient swallows different consistencies of food and liquids that contain barium as a contrast material. A speech pathologist administers the food and liquids during the study, then reviews and interprets the video and makes diet
  • Speech and language evaluation
  • Special infant care clinic screening
  • N.C Children’s Hospital Specialty of Raleigh
  • Pediatric feeding and dysphagia team
Visit the Pediatric Speech Therapy page for more information.

Head and Neck Cancer

The UNC Swallowing Clinics consist of a multidisciplinary team providing evaluations and therapy for a wide variety of patients who experience symptoms of dysphagia. Examples of dysphagia symptoms may include:

  • Mouth and throat pain when swallowing
  • Coughing when eating or drinking or experiencing a sensation of food or liquids sticking in the throat during meals.

Patients treated in the SLP clinics include but are not limited to those patients with:

  • Oral cavity cancers
  • Throat and neck cancers
  • Skull base tumors
  • Neurological disorders
  • Vocal cord dysfunction
  • Short and long term tracheostomy
  • Chemotherapy and radiation injury

Patients undergoing chemotherapy and radiation treatment for head and neck cancers receive comprehensive evaluation, treatment and education prior to, during and following completion of cancer treatment.

The SLP works on an order from the physician to provide evaluation and treatment for disorders that result from these various diagnoses. Functional deficits affecting maintenance of proper nutrition by mouth and aspiration risks are treated by the SLP.

Dysphagia assessments used at the UNC Swallow Clinics include:

  • Clinical swallow evaluations
  • Modified barium swallow studies (MBSS)
  • Fiberoptic endoscopic evaluations (FEES).

Dysphagia treatments may consist of:

  • Diet modifications
  • Compensatory swallow strategies
  • Active strengthening exercises
  • Surface electromyography for biofeedback (SEEMG)
  • Electrical stimulation (VitalStim).

Trismus management

Surgery to repair or reconstruct the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) as well as surgery and radiation therapy for head and neck cancer can injure the tissues involved with opening the mouth.

Scarring (fibrosis) can occur as the muscles begin to heal causing tightening and shortening of these muscle fibers. This can cause the inability to open the mouth normally (trismus). Trismus can affect the ability to chew and swallow as well as clean the mouth and teeth.

The evaluation of trismus is also provided by speech pathologists at the UNC Speech and Swallowing Clinics. Treatment of trismus typically includes:

  • A home program consisting of massage
  • Active and passive (using various devices) stretching exercises to improve mouth opening.

Clinical Education Training at UNC

Educating speech therapists is one of our key missions. We welcome over 100 students in our clinical programs every year. UNC Medical Center offers an incredible array of clinical affiliations and fieldwork opportunities from pediatrics to geriatrics and a host of specialty areas. The breadth and depth of experience among our clinical instructors and the variety of our patient populations lead to rich learning opportunities.

For more information, see Clinical Education.

Contact Information

Make an Appointment Today

Our services are available at three convenient locations:

UNC Medical Center

984-974-6682

UNC Hospitals Hearing & Voice Center at Carolina Crossing

919 490-3280

Center for Rehabilitation Care

919 595-9637

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