20-Year Old Able To Swallow Food For First Time After
Innovative Electrical Stimulation Treatment
VitalStim® Therapy Retrains Long Dormant Throat Muscles
Minneapolis, MN, July 27, 2009 – Alex Webb of Sandusky, Ohio is 20 years old and has
not eaten since birth. His nutrition has not consisted of fruits, vegetables and meats but instead
has come from liquids passed through a feeding tube in his stomach.
But all that is changing thanks to VitalStim Therapy, utilized in the Speech Therapy
Department at Fisher-Titus Medical Center in Norwalk, Ohio.
Like 15 million other Americans, Alex suffers from dysphagia, the inability to swallow.
For most of the one million Americans newly diagnosed every year, dysphagia is often a side
effect of stroke, a neurological disease, cancer or other serious illness.
Alex was born premature and had a feeding tube placed at birth. He also has a history of
low muscle tone, a mouth/jaw malformation, and was tongue-tied. All of these factors
contributed to his swallowing difficulties.
After recent dental work made it possible for Alex to close his mouth completely, Dr.
Glenn Trippe of New Beginnings Pediatrics in Norwalk believed that despite his long history of
not eating by mouth there was hope. That’s when the pediatrician referred Alex to the Speech
Therapy Department at FTMC’s Ralph & Alice Walcher Rehabilitation Center for swallow
“It has been a long and difficult road for Alex. He is such a brave and courageous young
man,” said Dr. Trippe.
In October 2008, Alex began VitalStim Therapy. Within three months of treatment,
therapy had produced a startling effect and for the first time in his life, Alex was able to swallow
food through his mouth.
“He has made magnificent progress in the past few months,” Dr. Trippe said. “VitalStim
and the other therapies at Fisher-Titus have been very helpful to him and have really improved
his quality of life.”
While his diet is still in the soft food stage, Alex is progressing toward a long-awaited
meal of steak and potatoes. His most requested condiment – Tabasco sauce!
“Alex’s progress has been phenomenal,” adds Laura Lloyd, FTMC Speech-Language
Pathologist. “He has defied the odds. I am amazed by how much progress he has made in
such a short amount of time.”
VitalStim Therapy, uses non-invasive electrical stimulation to help re-educate the throat
muscles needed for swallowing. Applied externally, it delivers small electrical currents to the
neck to stimulate inactive or atrophied swallowing muscles. FTMC has offered the therapy since
June 2007 and has four speech-language pathologists certified in VitalStim.
Alex has taken some giants steps in just the past few months. He has a job, he shops,
he is overcoming his self-consciousness – and he is eager to share his inspirational story with
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. To date, VitalStim® Therapy has
been administered with no reported adverse effects to over 100,000 patients by over 11,000
VitalStim-trained and certified therapists around the country. VitalStim® Therapy is a product of
Empi, a DJO company.
Contact: Lee Laino 212-879-1814
Johnna Young (FTMC) 419-663-1975, ext. 6630