Scientists are conducting research that will improve the ability of physicians and speech-language pathologists to evaluate and treat swallowing disorders. All aspects of the swallowing process are being studied in people of all ages, including those who do and do not have dysphagia. For example, scientists have found that there is great variation in tongue movement during swallowing. Knowing which tongue movements cause problems will help physicians and speech-language pathologists evaluate swallowing.
Research has also led to new, safe ways to study tongue and throat movements during the swallowing process. These methods will help physician and speech pathologists safely reevaluate a patient's progress during treatment. Studies of treatment methods are helping scientists discover why some forms of treatment work with some people and not with others. For example, research has shown that, in most cases, a patient who has had a stroke should not drink with his or her head tipped back. Other research has shown that some patients with cancer who have had part or all of their tongue removed should drink with their head tipped back. This knowledge will help some patients avoid serious lung infections and help others avoid tube feedings.