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SYDNEY SCHAEFER/WATERTOWN DAILY TIMES In order to efficiently recruit and retain its inpatient services staff, Samaritan Health's hospitalists will now be outsourced from Apogee Physicians, effective April 2.

WATERTOWN — To help identify swallowing disorders in patients, Samaritan Health System is offering a new evaluation tool to its speech therapy staff.

The Fiberoptic Endoscopic Evaluation of Swallowing tool, known as FEES, allows therapists to capture and record live color video to identify the cause of dysphagia — difficulty swallowing. The procedure isn’t invasive and can be done in any medical setting, but Samaritan is the only local provider to offer it.

With the endoscopy, the speech therapist can see if the food goes into the airway instead of the stomach, what parts of the mouth and throat don’t work well, what kinds of food consistencies are safest for the patient to swallow and strategies to help the patient swallow better.

Improving swallow function will reduce the patient’s risks of choking and risk of developing aspiration-related illnesses.

The alternative to the system is a Modified Barium Swallow Study, an x-ray video of various consistencies of food and drink covered in barium being chewed and swallowed, also offered at Samaritan. Each tests offers different information to formulate a plan of care.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

Health, nonprofit and education reporter for the Watertown Daily Times.

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