Cory O'Brien, Speech Pathologist

Help for Patients with Swallowing Problems and Voice Issues

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), esophageal cancer, and neck and esophageal surgeries can cause difficulty swallowing. Sometimes reflux also changes a person’s voice. To diagnose swallowing problems and help patients better manage these symptoms, the AdventHealth Digestive Institute has a Voice and Swallowing Center.

While the ability to swallow may seem effortless, it is a very complex process. Roughly 50 pairs of muscles and many nerves work to move food from the mouth to the stomach. Swallowing disorders, also called dysphagia, can affect your ability to eat, drink or take medicine. Dysphagia can also put you at risk for serious health consequences.

Symptoms of a swallowing disorder can include:

  • A feeling that food is getting stuck in the throat
  • Pain or discomfort while eating or drinking
  • Coughing during eating or immediately afterward
  • Having a wet or gurgly voice

Work Closely with an Expert Speech-Language Pathologist

The Voice and Swallowing Center is led by a speech-language pathologist, a trained professional who helps patients regain function of their mouths and throats. In evaluating patients, Cory O'Brien, AdventHealth Digestive Institute's speech-language pathologist observes how their muscles work when they swallow. She often performs special tests to see inside their throats and works closely with gastroenterologists to create care plans if dysphagia is caused by underlying issues with the digestive tract. Cory also helps patients relearn how to swallow and speak as well as possible.

Treatments provided at the Voice and Swallowing Center include:

  • Teaching patients how to perform specialized exercises that improve muscle movement
  • Helping patients discover eating and drinking positions and strategies that make swallowing easier
  • Finding out with patients which specific food and liquid textures are easier for them to swallow

Many times, working with a speech-language pathologist can fully restore patients’ abilities to eat and drink so they can enjoy food as much as they did before their injuries or conditions.

Mickle Center for Reflux and Esophageal Disorders

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