Swallowing Disorders

If you have a swallowing disorder you might feel pain or discomfort when you eat or drink. This type of condition can make it difficult to get all the calories, fluids and nourishment your body needs. Our expert team evaluates, counsels and treats all swallowing disorders, including those caused by a stroke, ALS, Parkinson's disease, brain tumors, surgery, or radiation therapy to the neck.

Overview and Symptoms

Symptoms of a swallowing disorder include:

  • Difficulty getting food and liquid from the front to the back of the mouth
  • Difficulty getting the swallow started
  • Difficulty getting the food and liquid safely into the esophagus
  • Coughing or choking while eating and drinking


Once you are identified as having difficulty eating or swallowing, a swallowing evaluation with a speech-language pathologist is ordered by a referring physician. Often a Video Swallow or Modified Barium Swallow may be recommended to visualize the swallowing mechanism and to determine whether foods or liquids are entering the airway.

Our goal is to help you to eat and swallow safely to ensure that food and/or liquid goes down the esophagus and not the “wrong way” into the lungs. In many cases we can suggest diet modifications or recommend changes in head position that improve airway protection, allowing you to continue to eat and drink even if you have difficulty swallowing or experience coughing or choking while eating and drinking.

Diagnostic and treatment options include: 

  • Video fluoroscopy, also known as a video swallow study

  • Fiber Optic Endoscopic Evaluation of Swallowing (FEES): a type of swallowing test where pictures are taken of your voice box and throat while you eat and drink

  • Swallowing therapy

Voice, Speech and Swallowing Therapy

The Voice, Speech and Swallowing Therapy experts at BIDMC are nationally recognized leaders, specializing in the diagnosis and treatment of voice, airway, speech and swallowing conditions.

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