Swallowing Disorders

DPNS Therapy Improves Quality of Life

Deep pharyngeal neuromuscular stimulation (DPNS) is offering dramatic long-term benefits to people with dysphagia (difficulty in swallowing). This short-term therapy restores muscle strength and reflexes within the pharynx, allowing patients to resume efficient swallowing. It also helps restore reflexive coughing and improve vocal quality.

Who It Helps

DPNS may help people with swallowing disorders related to the following conditions:

How DPNS Works

DPNS stimulates the cranial nerves by directly touching specific areas within the mouth and throat. This causes the pharyngeal and lingual muscles to contract. Over time, this strengthens the patient’s gag reflex and helps to improve long-term swallowing functionality.

Proven Long-Term Results

Prior to DPNS therapy, patients undergo a video-fluoroscopic swallowing evaluation, or modified barium swallow. This helps to clarify the severity of the problem and pinpoint the cause of the dysfunction. A second video-fluoroscopic evaluation is done at the end of the treatment program to assess functional improvement.

Most patients demonstrate significant progress in two to eight weeks of therapy, with improvements continuing long after the therapy is discontinued.

Other Treatment Options

Other rehabilitative treatments for dysphagia include:

  • Adaptive techniques, such as a modified diet or head-positioning
  • Thermal gustatory stimulation (TGS) therapy – This technique involves pressing a cold metal object against the back of the throat to elicit a swallow response. Improvements in swallowing functionality are generally temporary.
  • VitalStim™  therapy – Similar to DPNS therapy, except that electrical, rather than manual, stimulation is used to strengthen the pharyngeal muscles.

Costs, Insurance and Referrals

If you or someone you love is having trouble swallowing after an illness or injury, ask your doctor about a referral to MyMichigan's swallowing rehabilitation program.

Rehabilitation for dysphagia may be covered by Medicare, Medicaid or commercial insurance.  If you have questions about coverage, your insurance carrier or employer's benefits department is the best source of information.

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