We provide comprehensive care for patients with swallowing disorders.

Your throat is a tube that carries food to your esophagus and air to your windpipe and larynx. The technical name for the throat is pharynx.

Throat problems are common. You’ve probably had a sore throat. The cause is usually a viral infection, but other causes include allergies, infection with strep bacteria or the upward movement of stomach acids into the esophagus, called gastric reflux. Many throat problems are minor and go away on their own. Treatments, when needed, depend on the problem.

Swallowing disorders

If you have a swallowing disorder, you may have difficulty or pain when swallowing. Some people cannot swallow at all. Others may have trouble swallowing liquids, food or saliva. This makes it hard to eat. Often, it can be difficult to take in enough calories and fluids to nourish your body. Anyone can have a swallowing disorder, but it is more likely in the elderly.

Conditions that can cause throat discomfort and swallowing disorders include:

  • Acid reflux (stomach acid backup into the throat)
  • Diseases that paralyze the vocal cords
  • Growths due to a virus or cancer
  • Head or spinal cord injury
  • Infections (tonsillitis)
  • Laryngitis or pharyngitis (inflammation of the pharynx)
  • Spasms (spasmodic dysphonia)
  • Stroke
Medicines can help some people, while others may need surgery. Swallowing treatment with a speech-language pathologist can help, too.

NIH: National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders



Treatments

Swallowing function can be restored in many patients, along with quality of life. Your physician will start by ruling out some common causes based on your symptoms and initial an examination. Appropriate testing will be conducted, followed by the best treatment options for you as your condition is diagnosed.

Here are some possible tests and treatments available to you at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center:

Botulinum toxin

When overactive signals from the brain cause vocal cord muscles to spasm, it is called spasmodic dysphonia. Botulinum toxin (BTX) is injected into the muscles to block the signals, which diminishes the intensity and amount of spasms.

Direct microlaryngoscopy

During the direct microlaryngoscopy (DML) procedure, a small telescope is inserted through the mouth to examine your throat and larynx. Images of your larynx are magnified with a microscope and projected to enable the surgeon to diagnose and, if necessary, remove vocal cord lesions.

Esophagoscopy

Esophagoscopy is examination of the esophagus using a thin, tubular instrument fitted with a laminated lens. The instrument, called an esophagoscope, may also be fitted with other equipment to extract a tissue sample (biopsy) to analyze it for disease.

Flexible endoscopic evaluation of swallow

Flexible endoscopic evaluation of swallow (FEES) is a specialized test that uses a small camera inserted through the nose to the throat to evaluate a swallowing problem and determine the safest diet.

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KTP laser treatments

KTP (potassium titanyl phosphate) lasers are usually used in Lasik eye surgery. KTP lasers have been applied to ENT surgical procedures to destroy unwanted tissues or masses (photoablation). The procedure is relatively painless, with patients recovering within weeks.

Laryngoscopy

Laryngoscopy enables a surgeon to examine the larynx (voice box) for abnormality. A mirrored, tubular instrument with an illuminated lens is inserted through the mouth to analyze the larynx. The instrument, called a laryngoscope, can also be used to remove tissue samples for further analysis (biopsy).

Swallowing, voice and laryngeal control therapy

Swallowing therapy

Swallowing therapy is performed to help patients maximize their nutrition and provides a safe means of swallowing when they have swallowing dysfunction.

Voice therapy

Voice therapy can be used to treat various issues that affect the throat, vocal cords and other parts of the voice box. Exercises are usually engaged to help strengthen the vocal cords, improve breathing and modify voice usage.

Laryngeal control therapy

Laryngeal control therapy (LCT) is specialized therapy for vocal cord dysfunction/paradoxical vocal cord motion disorder. With it, participants learn how to relax the vocal cords and retrain the way they breathe. In a study of 36 subjects who attended at least one LCT session, 25 reported improvement of symptoms (69 percent). Other patients who attended two or more sessions were more likely to experience symptom improvement.

Tracheotomy/tracheostomy

Tracheotomy (or tracheostomy) involves making an incision in the front of the neck to insert a breathing tube into the trachea. The tube bypasses the normal breathing process that occurs through the nose and mouth and allows the breathing to take place through the tube.

Vocal cord injections

Where your only option elsewhere may be surgery, OSU Wexner Medical Center often offers various other safe and effective alternatives, as we do for vocal cord paralysis. By using an in-office/outpatient injection procedure we conducted leading research on, patients with vocal cord paralysis often can avoid other, more invasive surgery.

Vocal cord injection is also used to treat a condition called spasmodic dysphonia, where muscles that control the vocal cords spasm due to overactive signals from the brain. It may also be used to treat paradoxical vocal cord motion disorder (PVCMD) – a vocal cord abnormality that mimics asthma.

Why Choose Ohio State?

Specialty trained: Our physicians who specialize in voice and swallowing disorders are fellowship-trained surgeons. These specialists receive training above the level most ENT specialists receive. Half of the fellowship specialists in all of Ohio can be found here.

Depth of experience: Our department sees up to 30 patients or more in a day. They can range from anyone who’s coughing more than they should be to nationally renowned touring singers with vocal impairment.

Clinical excellence: We’re considered the worldwide experts on paradoxical vocal cord motion disorder (PVCMD) – a vocal cord abnormality that mimics asthma – partly because our academic affiliation enables us to conduct research that leads to better diagnosis and treatment. In fact, we see more patients for PVCMD than any other facility in the United States.

Unique treatments: While surgery may be your only option at other hospitals, we often offer various other safe and effective alternatives. This includes using an in-office injection procedure we conducted leading research on.

Nationally ranked: OSU Wexner Medical Center is recognized by U.S.News & World Report one of the nation’s best hospitals for care of the ear, nose and throat.

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