South Florida Baptist Hospital Outpatient Rehabilitation Offers Pediatric Swallow Studies

March 16, 2016

PLANT CITY, Fla., March 16, 2016 — On Feb. 1, South Florida Baptist Hospital’s Outpatient Rehabilitation at the Swindle Medical Arts Center, began offering pediatric swallow studies.

“Prior to this, parents in Plant City or Lakeland had to drive their children to Tampa or St. Petersburg for this procedure, where it can take several weeks before an appointment is available,” said Dave Davenport, manager, South Florida Baptist Hospital Rehabilitation Services.  “Now we offer this service in a more convenient location.”

Swallow studies are performed when a person has been diagnosed with dysphagia or to determine if a person does have dysphagia – trouble swallowing.  It can lead to serious problems, such as lung infection.

When a person swallows food, it passes from the mouth down into the throat, or pharynx.  From there, the food moves down through the esophagus into the stomach.  This journey is made possible by a series of actions from the muscles in these areas.  If a person has dysphagia, the muscles don’t work properly and they may not be able to swallow normally.

According to Tiffany Gutierrez, South Florida Baptist Hospital speech therapist, “Symptoms include coughing or choking when eating or drinking, a wet or gurgled voice, throat clearing and frequent respiratory issues.”  Children with a cleft palate, Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, among other disorders, are at a higher risk. 

When a physician (usually a primary care physician, gastroenterologist or pulmonologist) refers a patient to a speech therapist for feeding therapy, the therapist will assess the patient’s swallowing function and feeding skills from a motor, sensory and behavioral perspective. As part of the clinical feeding evaluation, a Modified Barium Swallow study (MBS) may be recommended, or the physician may order an MBS directly, based on clinical symptoms and/or medical history. The MBS is actually done at the hospital in the new fluoroscopy suite in South Florida Baptist Hospital Radiology.

During the evaluation, barium is mixed into the patient’s food or beverage, even a newborn’s formula or breastmilk.  Under low doses of radiology, the barium allows the therapist to see what happens as the patient drinks or eats.  “We can see if any material is going into the trachea, if aspiration occurs,” Gutierrez explained. Technically, it is considered aspiration if material goes to or below the level of the vocal folds in the larynx.

Once a diagnosis is made, the patient usually can be treated with therapy.  “We can determine what modifications can be made to reduce aspiration,” Gutierrez said.  This may include modifications to the patient’s diet, pacing feedings appropriately, neuromuscular stimulation or clinical strengthening treatment.  The therapists also provide a great deal of caregiver education.

This service is available at South Florida Baptist Hospital for patients from newborns to adults.  To make an appointment, call 813-707-9362.

About South Florida Baptist Hospital

Since 1953, South Florida Baptist Hospital has served Plant City and surrounding areas as a not-for-profit community hospital.  The progressive, 147-bed acute care facility offers a full range of diagnostic, rehabilitative, surgical, therapeutic and women’s services, including obstetrics.  South Florida Baptist Hospital is part of the BayCare Health System, a family of health care providers consisting of the 14 leading not-for-profit hospitals in the Tampa Bay region.

About BayCare Health System

BayCare is a leading not-for-profit health care system that connects individuals and families to a wide range of services at 14 hospitals and hundreds of other convenient locations throughout the Tampa Bay and central Florida regions. Inpatient and outpatient services include acute care, primary care, imaging, laboratory, behavioral health, home care, and wellness. Our mission is to improve the health of all we serve through community-owned, health care services that set the standard for high-quality, compassionate care.

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