UNC Swallowing Clinic
The UNC Swallowing Clinic consists 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.
Conditions We Treat
Patients treated in the swallowing 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 speech-language pathologist 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 speech-language pathologist.
Assessments We Offer
Dysphagia assessments used at the UNC Swallowing Clinics include:
- Clinical swallow evaluations
- Modified barium swallow studies (MBSS)
- Fiberoptic endoscopic evaluations (FEES)
Treatments We Provide
Dysphagia treatments may consist of:
- Diet modifications
- Compensatory swallow strategies
- Active strengthening exercises
- Surface electromyography for biofeedback (SEEMG)
- Electrical stimulation (VitalStim)
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.