Severe swallowing disorders are common and costly health problems, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke and the Journal of Rehabilitation Research and Development. Complications include aspiration, dehydration, pneumonia, malnutrition, depression and death. The problem can be caused by a stroke, head and neck cancer, head injuries, advancing age and diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. In the United States, an estimated 16.5 million people may need treatment for problems associated with oropharyngeal dysphagia. A variety of surgical procedures are available to improve swallowing function, but such treatments are invasive and may only provide partial relief, and fail in a significant percentage of individuals.
Daniel Fiandra, the Uruguayan doctor who was treated by Belafsky and Farwell, has used a feeding tube for nourishment and has not been able to eat or drink in more than two years after undergoing chemotherapy and radiation treatments for tonsil cancer. Coming from a family of physicians, Fiandra, who is a cardiologist, researched and contacted UC Davis after learning about its expertise in treating voice and swallowing disorders. (A very similar device developed by Belafsky is currently being evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration for a clinical trial at UC Davis.)
At a hospital in Uruguay's capital of Montevideo, Belafsky and Farwell sutured the t-shaped titanium device into the cricoid cartilage during a 45-minute procedure. They required that he wait several months before attempting to use the device to ensure the incision site fully healed and the device was well-integrated into cartilage located just above the thyroid gland in the throat.
Using a UC Davis technology
|Contact: Charles Casey|
University of California - Davis Health System