State of the art equipment for adult speech and language

Following a successful business case, the Adult Speech and Language team have taken delivery of a state of the art piece of equipment known as FEES, (fiberoptic endoscopic evaluation of swallowing).

This device will greatly assist speech and language therapists with their assessment of patients on the wards who have problems with swallowing.  During the procedure, a specially trained SLT passes a thin, flexible scope through the nose, and they can then view parts of the patient’s throat when they swallow.  They can record what is seen digitally, and save this into the patient’s medical records.

When food or liquid is swallowed, it passes through our mouths, down through the throat and through a long tube before entering our stomach. This movement requires a series of complex actions from the muscles in these areas, plus careful coordination of our breathing patterns.  Sometimes when this process goes wrong (known as dysphagia), food can pass into the lungs.  This is known as ‘aspiration’, and can lead to pneumonia or other problems.  A FEES investigation can help identify what parts of the throat or mouth may not be working correctly and whether a patient is aspirating.  It can also show if there are certain foods or liquids which need to be avoided, or whether certain positions can help you swallow more safely.  It is especially useful in patients who are bed-bound, as the kit can be transported to the patient’s bedside.   

The new piece of kit was used for the first time on a patient who had been in hospital for several months, and had been ‘nil by mouth’ for most of that time.  As a result, the team were able to progress the patient onto a normal diet and fluid, so this was a great outcome for the patient, as well as a great start for the team!