Doctors often ask other healthcare providers such as speech-language pathologists (SLP) to help test swallowing problems. They may use a small camera placed through the nose to examine how food passes by the voice box into the esophagus during a swallow. Testing may also include a special X-ray video, called a modified barium swallow. This allows the SLP and doctor to watch the food pass through the entire swallowing activity from lips to esophagus. These tests may show what is wrong in the swallowing process, and help them figure out how to help you eat and drink safely.
Sometimes, simple diet changes are all that is needed to prevent aspiration. Other cases may need swallowing therapy. During therapy, exercises for swallowing strengthen and coordinate the muscles used in swallowing. Some swallowing problems may need surgery. Unfortunately, in certain situations, swallowing is so difficult or unsafe that a person cannot take in any food or drink by mouth. Then, interventions like a stomach feeding tube can supply food and fluids. In these situations, your doctor(s) and clinical team will work to help you find treatment(s) to regain a safe, effective swallow.
If you have any questions or concerns about suspected aspiration for you or a loved one, please find a nearby ENT specialist for consultation.