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2004 Press Releases
Morton Plant North Bay Offers New Hope for Stroke Survivors
01/06/2005

Swallowing Disorders Treated With VitalStim Electrodes

NEW PORT RICHEY, Fla., (December 7, 2004) - Imagine you're unable to eat any solid food or even drink a glass of water. An estimated 15 million people in the U.S. have difficulty swallowing, or dysphagia. This disorder affects many stroke survivors. Morton Plant North Bay Hospital is bringing a new treatment to stroke survivors that can help them learn to swallow all over again.

Called VitalStim, the process uses electrotherapy specifically designed to re-train the pharyngeal muscles in the throat. The portable device is about the size of a walkman, with electrodes that attach to a patient's neck. A low voltage charge from the electrodes sends a warm vibration through the neck, causing muscles to contract.

"The therapy actually re-trains the muscles," said Katherine Lamb, Speech Language Pathologist, Morton Plant North Bay Hospital. "Patients who couldn't swallow can regain their ability to eat and drink more normally."

Traditional methods to treat dysphagia include conventional speech therapy, patient education, facial exercises, and diet modification such as pureeing food to make it pass more easily down the throat.

"It's unbelievable," said Lamb. "Compared to traditional treatments, the electrotherapy works much faster and with positive results in every patient."

VitalStim procedures are performed three to four times a week and last about an hour. The average stroke survivor will need approximately 12 to 16 treatments.

An estimated 60,000 people die each year from complications associated with swallowing disorders and more than a million new cases of dysphagia occur annually.

Established in 1965, Morton Plant North Bay Hospital is a 122-bed facility dedicated to improving the health of all it serves through community-owned health services that set the standard for high quality, compassionate care. Earlier this year, Morton Plant North Bay's stroke care received the highest level of recognition -- the Gold Seal of ApprovalTM for Primary Stroke Care from the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO). Morton Plant North Bay Hospital is located at 6600 Madison Street, New Port Richey, Fla., (727) 842-8468.

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Contact: Beth Hardy (727) 298-6199 Phone, Amy Morrow (727) 461-8538 Phone (727) 468-7586 Pager