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UC Davis surgeons test innovative device in patient with swallowing disorder
Date:11/30/2010

(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) In what might be one of the world's first medicinal body piercings, UC Davis Health System surgeons announced today that they have successfully implanted an experimental device in the throat of a man that will enable him to manually control his ability to swallow. The device, which could offer an effective treatment option for people suffering from severe swallowing problems, is controlled by pulling on a tiny metal pin that extends through the skin in the neck. The post, when pulled forward, manually opens the esophagus and allows food and water to pass.

The patient, a Uruguayan physician and a cancer survivor who sought help from UC Davis swallowing experts, came to Sacramento in mid-November for a series of tests and evaluations as follow-up to the implant surgery that took place last summer. Peter Belafsky and Gregory Farwell, both professors of otolaryngology, had traveled to South America in August to perform the unique implantation. With the assistance of Uruguayan medical colleagues, they monitored their patient long distance while waiting for the incision site to fully heal.

After checking the patient's swallowing control and capabilities using the X-ray technology of a fluoroscope, Belafsky pronounced the experimental device a qualified success and one that could offer a much-needed treatment option for tens of thousands of patients with swallowing disorders known as oropharyngeal dysphagia.

"We've developed an earring-like stud that extrudes about a quarter-inch above the skin, much like a body piercing," said Belafsky, who directs the Voice and Swallowing Center at UC Davis and spent five years developing the device. He designed it to more closely resemble an earring post after taking his two daughters to get their ears pierced.

"By attaching a tiny titanium rod to a postage stamp-sized plate that we've sewn into the neck cartilage, we've enabled our patient to safely and without pain pull on
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Contact: Charles Casey
charles.casey@ucdmc.ucdavis.edu
916-734-9048
University of California - Davis Health System
Source:Eurekalert

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