BY MELANIE WADE –
Medical technology is a constantly evolving subject and for those in the industry, keeping up with the latest and greatest gadgets can be a full time job. For Rich Mountain Nursing and Rehabilitation in Mena, they do their best to keep up and have recently implemented a new piece of equipment that has brought speech therapy to a whole new level.
Amber Kirkpatrick, M.S. CCC-SLP, is the Speech Language Pathologist at Rich Mtn. Nursing and she said their newest machine, Synchrony Dysphagia Solutions by ACP, is a “great asset to residents and the community.” The Synchrony is used to assist with the diagnosis and treatment of patients with dysphagia – the medical term used to describe difficulty swallowing. Dysphagia includes difficulty starting a swallow (called oropharyngeal dysphagia) and the sensation of food being stuck in the neck or chest (called esophageal dysphagia).
Many times, those with dysphagia have suffered from ailments such as dementia, stroke, or traumatic brain injuries and some have a hard time describing what is wrong. With the Sychrony, the patients are monitored with new technology that can actually read muscle movements as a patient swallows, allowing the staff to see ‘inside’ the patients throat area and decide what protocol to take to treat the patient.
“We can see the swallow in real time,” said Kirkpatrick. “We can see the strength and duration of the swallow and the intensity. Before this, we just kind of watched and guessed. This gives us data numbers we can compare with their treatment to see if they are getting better.
The patients like the new system too. “There are games they can play that engage them in the treatment. They love it.” While the patient is “hooked up” to the machine via electrodes, they look at a television screen, which directs them what to do. In one such patient, they are working on tongue strength. “He presses against a tongue depressor and holds it. As long as he is holding it, his little fish (on the screen) gets clams and scores. It lets patients see how hard they are working, it engages them, and they enjoy it.”
The program has already shown great success and Kirkpatrick and her rehabilitation department are excited about future patients being able to be diagnosed more quickly and in turn, treated properly and efficiently.
If you would like to learn more about Synchrony, contact Kirkpatrick at Rich Mountain Nursing and Rehabilitation at 479-394-3511.