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More than 20% of individuals over the age of 50 experience dysphagia, also described as difficulty swallowing. Although dysphagia can occur at any age for several reasons, after 30 muscle size and strength begin to slowly decrease, including muscles that help with swallowing. The inability to safely swallow can lead to significant health issues including malnutrition, dehydration, aspiration (when food or liquid enters the lungs) and recurrent pneumonia that can lead to other serious health conditions.

Fortunately, there are local services that help determine the cause of dysphagia. Logan Health – Shelby’s recent installation of new Shimadzu Digital Radiology equipment includes the only innovated Fluoroscopy unit available in the region. Fluoroscopy is a type of medical imaging procedure that shows a continuous X-ray image on a monitor, much like an X-ray movie. With this new technology, Modified Barium Swallow Studies (MBSS) are available at Logan Health – Shelby.Speech therapy swallow study services

During a Modified Barium Swallow Study, the patient’s mouth, throat and esophagus is examined by a certified radiology practitioner assistant (RPA) and a speech language pathologist (SLP) using the Fluoroscopy unit to identify and diagnose swallow impairments. One of Logan Health – Shelby’s radiology technologists will guide the patient to the examination room and will provide a chair to sit next to the X-ray machine or they could be asked to stand for the test. The SLP will provide food and liquid mixed with barium for the patient to chew and swallow. Barium allows images of the mouth, throat and esophagus to be seen on the portable TIMS unit, a cutting-edge live video recording machine.

After the RPA and SLP evaluate the test results, they will determine if and why the patient is experiencing problems swallowing. Based on the outcome of the test, patients will receive either recommendations about what and how to eat and drink, an individualized swallowing plan or be referred to see a speech therapist to strengthen muscles.

“We are very lucky to have this advanced equipment available for patients without the need to travel far for the same treatment,” said certified speech language pathologist, Rebecca Oylear, MS, CCC-SLP.

Originally from Washington state, Rebecca joined Logan Health in Conrad and Shelby in April 2023 to expand her clinical practice and expertise in rural health care. She is a generalist in the field and works with both pediatrics and adults, covering inpatient rehabilitation, acute, outpatient rehabilitation and home health settings.

Patients who are concerned or experiencing swallowing disorders, such as dry mouth, regurgitation, or coughing while eating or drinking are encouraged to talk to their provider to seek a referral for speech therapy or a Modified Barium Swallow Study. For additional questions, please call Logan Health – Conrad at (406) 271-3211 or Logan Health – Shelby at (406) 434-3200.