Ashley Bisby Achieves New Certification for Dysphagia Treatment

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It’s a basic skill we barely notice until it slips away.

Dysphagia, the medical term for trouble swallowing, can be frustrating, painful and even dangerous. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association says dysphagia can lead to dehydration, malnutrition and reflux. It can also cause choking, lung infections and pneumonia when food or liquid strays into the airway.

Ashley Bisby, MS, a speech-language pathologist (SLP) at Covenant Health Therapy Center – West Knoxville,  is armed with a newfound weapon against dysphagia. She has achieved certification in Vital Stim Therapy from the Dines Specialty Program.

“I learned so much during the training process,” Bisby says. “The course reviewed the anatomy and physiology of the swallowing mechanism, exercises and dysphagia, and had hands-on labs for electrode placements and common treatment targets.”

Dysphagia Treatment that Works

Ashley Bisby, Speech-Language Pathologist

The “Vital Stim Therapy and Beyond” certification program, a rigorous 28-hour course, equipped Bisby with the knowledge and skills needed to move her dysphagia treatment to a new level. Combining 12 hours of online learning with 16 hours of immersive live training, the program delved deep into the science behind neuromuscular electrical stimulation. This groundbreaking technique targets the muscles of the anterior neck and facial nerves.

This innovative approach, when coupled with evidence-based dysphagia treatments, holds the promise of not just improving swallow function, but also reducing the risk of aspiration – a lifeline for patients navigating the challenges of dysphagia.

“I began using Vital Stim Therapy as soon as I completed the certification training course,” Bisby says. “The impact was immediate – both for me as a practitioner and for my patients.”

The Vital Stim Therapy and Beyond course of study not only equipped her with practical skills but also delved into the specifics of dysphagia management. Patients who were burdened by the fear of coughing or choking during meals are being empowered to reclaim their nutrition, their health and their lives.

Mark Conley, manager at Covenant Health Therapy Center – West Knoxville, says Bisby is a fast learner who pays attention to detail.

“In less than a year, she has taken on this position with motivation to serve such a diverse patient population,” Conley says. “She demonstrates her dedication to patient care by actively finding ways to meet her patient’s needs and collaborating on a neuro-comprehension team.”

Mark Conley pictured in blue shirt smiling.
Mark Conley, Covenant Therapy Center Manager

Symptoms of Dysphasia

Dysphagia usually happens in three stages, impacting the mouth, the throat and the esophagus. Common causes include:

Damage to the brain or nerves

  • Stroke
  • Brain injury
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease)
  • Muscular dystrophy
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Alzheimer’s disease

Problems with the head, neck or mouth

  • Cancer of the mouth, throat or esophagus
  • Head or neck injuries
  • Mouth or neck surgery
  • Bad teeth, missing teeth or dentures that do not fit well

Symptoms of dysphagia may include:

  • Coughing or clearing your throat often when you eat (or right after)
  • Having a wet or gurgly voice during or after eating or drinking
  • A sensation of something being stuck in your throat or chest after eating or drinking
  • Extra effort or time needed to chew and swallow
  • Food or liquid leaking from the mouth
  • Food stuck in the mouth
  • Trouble breathing after eating
  • Weight loss

A speech-language pathologist (SLP) like Bisby can test for dysphagia and offer treatments to bolster the ability to swallow. To find out if you or someone you care about may be a candidate for Vital Stim Therapy, talk to a physician or contact Covenant Health Therapy Center – West Knoxville.

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About the Author

Covenant Health

Headquartered in Knoxville, Tennessee, Covenant Health is a community-owned, healthcare enterprise committed to providing the right care at the right time and place. Covenant Health is the area’s largest employer and has more than 11,000 compassionate caregivers, expert clinicians, and dedicated employees and volunteers.

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