Swallow Test Expands Mercy Therapy Services’ Scope

January 21, 2015

Emily Revelle, Mercy speech-language pathologist, conducts FEES test

For many, a hearty meal is a highlight of the day; for some, it’s a dreaded obstacle – but it doesn’t have to be. Mercy Therapy Services – Lebanon now offers a test to get to the bottom of swallowing problems.

“Eating is such an important part of our lives,” said Emily Revelle, Mercy speech-language pathologist. “Unfortunately, swallowing can be a challenge if you have cancer, a neurological disease or even poor posture, among other things."

Fiberoptic Endoscopic Evaluation of Swallowing (FEES) gives Mercy’s therapists a high definition glimpse into a patient’s swallowing function. A scope with a camera attached is passed through the nose, displaying a real-time glimpse of the swallow on a computer monitor.

“From there we get a very clear look at any abnormalities so we can make appropriate referrals,” said Terri Foster, director of therapy services. “We can then evaluate the level of airway protection, effectiveness of postures and maneuvers, as well as recommend the most appropriate diet.”

“We had a gentleman who could get through the first two bites of his meal, but then started getting fatigued fairly quickly,” Revelle said. “It turned out he had a rare neuromuscular disease. We were able to collaborate with his doctor and help him manage it and avoid needing a feeding tube.”

FEES does not require anesthesia and can be performed within an outpatient setting or at a bedside. It can also be performed repeatedly without side effects. There is no radiation risk, nor is there a need for barium, a chemical element often used by doctors to examine the esophagus.

According to the National Institutes of Health, FEES is now a first choice method for studying swallowing disorders because of its simplicity. “We’re so excited to offer this to the Lebanon community and surrounding areas,” Foster said. “In the past, patients with swallowing difficulties were sent to the Springfield campus in order to get this test.”

Mercy Therapy Services – Lebanon is located at 331 Hospital Drive in Lebanon, Missouri. To learn more about FEES, or other services offered, call 417-533-6315 or click here.