Welcome to VitalStim UK

What is VitalStim® Therapy?

VitalStim Therapy is a patented therapy process and equipment system developed specifically to treat dysphagia.

It is the only Neuromuscular Electrical Stimulation (NMES) therapy and equipment system to have received clearance from the Food & Drug Administration for the treatment of dysphagia: muscle re-education by application of external stimulation to the muscles necessary for pharyngeal contraction. In addition to two patents and FDA clearance, VitalStim Therapy is backed by comprehensive clinical data.

VitalStim Therapy is designed as an adjunct therapy, meaning the clinician will apply VitalStim Therapy while they are working with the patients on other swallowing-related exercises. Used as an adjunct, VitalStim Therapy has been found to:

  •  Be safe for the patient
  •  Accelerate the recovery time from a restricted diet
  •  Help patients achieve sustained improvement: long term results

The lasting effect of VitalStim Therapy was demonstrated in a 3-year follow-up study, submitted to the FDA, that showed improved swallowing function was maintained. Most recently, a second published study demonstrated the lasting positive impact of VitalStim Therapy in a group of patients for whom previous attempts at dysphagia therapy had failed.

How it Works?

VitalStim involves the administration of small, electrical impulses to the swallowing muscles in the throat through electrodes attached to the skin overlaying the musculature. The therapist determines which musculature would benefit from this facilitation through a patient evaluation. Once the electrodes are placed and current intensity has been increased to a satisfactory level, the therapist commences traditional exercise therapy with the patient. The patient exercises the swallowing muscles for periods of up to one hour while receiving concurrent VitalStim Therapy. VitalStim, when applied in this manner, increases muscle strength, accelerates cortical reorganization, and increases the effectiveness of the exercise therapy.

A small, carefully calibrated current is delivered by electrodes designed specifically for this purpose.  The current stimulates motor nerves in the throat. The muscles responsible for swallowing then contract.  The quality of the swallowing function improves. With repeated therapy, muscles are re-educated.

NMES is routinely used to help restore muscle function in other parts of the body. But traditional NMES treatments and electrodes are contraindicated for use on the muscles necessary for pharyngeal contraction. The specific concerns: that stimulating the laryngeal afferents could trigger laryngospasm, and that placing electrodes too close to the carotid artery could cause sinus bradycardia. But VitalStim® Therapy is not a traditional NMES treatment. VitalStim Therapy equipment and electrodes were specifically developed for the treatment of dysphagia and are not used in other NMES treatments; a very precise, and patented, therapy program describes VitalStim including placement of VitalStim electrodes on the anterior portion of the neck.

VitalStim Therapy should not be used directly over an active neoplasm or infection. It should be used with caution in patients with seizure disorders and patients with implanted electronics (e.g., pacemakers, implantable defibrillators, deep brain stimulators). Some patients may not respond well to VitalStim Therapy. This may include patients with significant lower motor neuron damage and patients with severely impaired cognition. A certified VitalStim clinician can give you more information about candidacy for this treatment.