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2007 Press Releases
Morton Plant Mease Offers VitalStim Therapy to Treat Children with Swallowing Disorders

CLEARWATER, Fla., (March 7, 2007) -Infants and children with swallowing disorders now have a new medical treatment option that helps them learn to swallow using a non-invasive, painless therapy. Morton Plant Mease Health Care is now among the first in Florida to use VitalStim® Pediatric Therapy. Approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), VitalStim electrotherapy stimulates muscles in the throat through a gentle, warm vibration that trains an infant or child how to swallow properly. Morton Plant Mease speech language pathologists, Jill Londrigan and Elizabeth Gaetz are currently the only two therapists in Florida certified to use VitalStim Pediatric Therapy including for infants in neonatal intensive care units.

“Sometimes due to a genetic disorder or possibly a developmental delay, an infant will have difficulty swallowing and is unable to breastfeed or drink from a baby bottle. In these instances the gentle vibration and stimulation from VitalStim Therapy on throat muscles helps the infant learn to swallow properly,” said Londrigan.

“Without VitalStim Pediatric Therapy an infant or child who has difficulty swallowing may have to rely on a feeding tube and an altered diet to get the necessary nutrients they need to develop and grow properly,” adds Gaetz.

VitalStim is a portable device about the size of a walkman, with electrodes that attach to a patient’s neck. A low voltage charge from the electrodes is sent through the neck, causing muscles to contract. Compared to traditional methods to treat swallowing disorders such as conventional speech therapy and facial exercises, VitalStim Therapy works much faster and with positive patient results typically in six to 20 treatment sessions.

An estimated 15 million people in the U.S. have difficulty swallowing. Since 2004, VitalStim Therapy has been used by Morton Plant Mease speech language pathologists to treat adult patients. These patients may suffer from:

* Stroke

* Traumatic brain injury

* Cerebral palsy

* Mouth or throat cancer

* Parkinson’s disease

* Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS)

* Respiratory problems

* Post polio syndrome

Nationally recognized for health care excellence, Morton Plant Mease Health Care is dedicated to providing community owned health care services that set the standard for high-quality, compassionate care. Morton Plant Mease Health Care is comprised of the following hospitals – Morton Plant, Clearwater; Mease Dunedin, Dunedin; Mease Countryside, Safety Harbor and Morton Plant North Bay, New Port Richey.

Contact: Amy Morrow (727) 461-8538 Phone, (727) 468-7586 Pager