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The premier source of information for the management of patients with Dysphagia

ESSD 2014 Meeting Report

23 October 2014

Attendance at the 4th Congress of European Society for Swallowing Disorders (23rd – 25th October 2014) - Perspective of a Speech and Language Therapist

It was with a sense of great excitement that my colleague and I set off for Brussels as invited guests of Nutricia on October 22nd 2014.  I currently work with adult clients in both community and nursing homes who present with a range of acquired neurological and degenerative conditions often resulting in dysphagia based difficulties/disorders.  Consequently, I frequently recommend and implement the use of Nutricia products such as thickening powder, Forticreme etc. as part of the care plan to promote safe and optimum safe eating, drinking and swallowing. 

The trip facilitator arranged everything for us so it was simply a matter of attending the variety of workshops, symposiums, white papers and clinical case study presentations and absorbing the wealth of information and research made available.  There are too many presentations and research papers to succinctly capture in this summary, however, I have endeavoured to reflect the stand out memories from the congress.

The president of the ESSD, Professor Pere Clavé who is based in Spain gave a very interesting talk on the prevalence, pathophysiology and risk factors of oropharyngeal dysphagia in stroke patients.  His study was very clear and concluded that the prevalence of post-stroke oropharyngeal dysphagia can be as high as 70% in the acute phase and up to 40% at 3 month follow up and ultimately leads to poor clinical outcomes and institutionalization.

The Nutricia Satellite Symposium also included a presentation by Linda Prevett, a speech and language therapist based in Scotland.  In August 2013, the area of Dumfries and Galloway opted to trial the use of the newer gum based thickening product, Nutilis Clear.  I was not aware that a non-starch based product had been developed.  Client, nursing staff and catering staff feedback has reportedly been very positive in the 14 months since it has been rolled out as an alternative to starch based thickener. 

One of the on-site products available to trial throughout the congress was the ‘Iowa Oral Performance Instrument’ (IOPI).  This device objectively measures tongue strength, so you can evaluate if a patient’s tongue is weak.  This device has been validated in many scientific studies on clients with stroke, Parkinson Disease, head and neck injury etc.  The instrument can also be used to strengthen lips for better lip seal thus promoting improved oral control and better speech production. It was helpful to try to this device out first-hand at the congress to better inform clinical practice with clients.  Another practical product on display was’ the dysphagia game’ presented by Nutricia which will allow for a fun and innovative way to educate and train care and nursing staff at workshops.

There were many speakers from all over the world presenting their research papers and findings.  As with any research carried out, there will be those who agree or disagree with the findings. With this said, I feel compelled to mention the contribution from an audience member from the USA who is a scientific committee member. On the topic relating to approaches in managing and resolving the issue of aspiration pneumonia, the US representative stated that ‘total laryngectomy is the gold standard to cure and treat aspiration pneumonia’ and furthermore, this procedure is routinely carried out in the US.  It led to quite a number of open jaw responses from fellow attendees.  Despite the controversy of his statement, it did lend itself to exploring further the debate regarding the rehabilitative versus the surgical/medical model of intervention for such a condition. 

Attendance at the congress allowed for increased insight into the latest clinical practices at play in different parts of the world and how research is such a valuable tool in ensuring optimum client care.  Moreover, the congress allowed for invaluable networking with like-minded colleagues and practitioners both during the day and more informal settings in the evenings.  We both thoroughly enjoyed the experience and would recommend any other health professional lucky enough to attend such a conference to make the most of the opportunity.

Siobhan Bohill

Community Speech & Language Therapist in County Louth


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