Speech Therapy Innovations at Polinsky

Perhaps most well-known for their work with patients who are recovering after a stroke, speech-language pathologists (SLPs) provide a wide range of services to help people with everything from swallowing and singing, to breathing and speaking. And, thanks to support from the Miller-Dwan Foundation, which is made possible by donors like you, SLPs at Polinsky Medical Center Rehabilitation are doing even more to help people in our community.

Adopting New Technologies
Both the Miller-Dwan Foundation and therapists at Polinsky are focused on investing in the very latest technology in order to help patients realize better quality of life. Most recently, the foundation helped fund the purchase of stroboscopy equipment. Stroboscopy is a procedure that evaluates the vibration of vocal cords. It assesses the movement of the vocal folds during the production of sound and produces a detailed picture that can be interpreted by an SLP. The technology utilizes short-duration light flashes for super-sharp images of the vibrating vocal folds.

Polinsky therapists use stroboscopy to evaluate the movement of vocal folds in order to provide biofeedback for people with vocal chord issues, such as singers and professional speakers. stroboscopy utilizes a flexible endoscopic camera to allow both therapists and patients to view video of their vocal folds in action. “With this technology, patients can see the results happening right in front of them,” Schaefer says. “This reinforces their learning and encourages them to continue with therapy and treatments.” For example, with stroboscopy, a singer who is learning how to ease muscle tension in her vocal chords can see how prescribed exercises work to do just that.

Seeing is Believing
Flexible endoscopic evaluation of swallowing (FEES) is one of the most objective evaluations available for diagnosing and treating swallowing problems (called dysphagia). But because the procedure requires specialized endoscopy training, it is usually only available in large academic hospitals. Polinsky, however, has had the technology – and its therapists the requisite training – for several years because of a grant from the Miller-Dwan Foundation.

One of the ways the FEES is used is to help patients who have head and/or neck cancer. Therapists begin working with these patients at the time of diagnosis and see them every week throughout their treatment, which usually includes radiation and chemotherapy. “The focus of therapy in these cases is on maintaining swallowing ability and strategies for dry mouth, taste and more,” says Susan Schaefer, Speech Language Pathologist at Polinsky. By using FEES, therapists like Schaefer have been able to provide some of the most aggressive – and successful – treatment in Minnesota. “Our head and neck cancer treatment is way ahead of the game,” Schaefer says.

Because of technology like stroboscopy and FEES and the knowledge and expertise of Polinsky therapists, patients in our region who experience voice or swallowing problems for any number of reasons don’t have to travel to Minneapolis – or further – to receive state-of-the-art treatment.

For more information about how to can help support further care-enhancing technologies, please contact the Miller-Dwan Foundation office at (218) 786-5829, info@mdfoundation.org, or click here to learn more about our focus areas.