How a new study will help stroke patients to eat and drink again

In a ground-breaking trial, Royal United Hospital will reteach stroke patients how to swallow

By Amber Hill

The Royal United Hospital, based in Bath, has undertaken a new trial in the hopes of encouraging stroke patients to relearn how to swallow. Having a stroke can drastically alter someone’s life, and, for a lot of people, accepting living with reduced function or mobility can be difficult to do. In some cases, there is a loss of muscle response in the throat, meaning that stroke patients often have to be fed and watered through a nutrition tube.

A new trial takes this existing method and runs with it. It is suggested that placing a tube into the throat of the patient and using electrodes to stimulate muscle movement will reduce the amount of time that patients have to spend in the hospital, away from their familiar surroundings and loved ones. Since no patient can go home while they are still needing a nutritional tube, this could diminish the time they spend in a care facility, and instead allows them more time to get on with their lives.

Emma Paulett, a Clinical Speech and Language Therapist at the hospital, acknowledges how losing the ability to swallow can be very mentally painful for the patient.

“It’s an emotive thing”, she says. “Swallowing and eating and drinking is so fundamental to us as people.”

The overall aim of the trial is to get people out of hospital as soon as possible. Previous trials similar to this have shown promising results, and Emma, like the rest of her team, have no doubt that this could help numerous patients to get their swallow back. With 1.3 million individuals living with stroke in the UK, acute treatments immediately after the event can definitely help people rebuild their sense of independence.

For more information on the trial and how to get into contact with the stroke team at RUH, click the link here.