A tool at Encompass Health Austin is making swallowing tests a whole lot more palatable

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Encompass Health Austin's Megan Moore test the FEES swallowing tool on an employee.
Encompass Health Austin’s Megan Moore test the FEES swallowing tool on an employee.

FEES devices makes swallowing tests easier for patients and their therapist

Forget the awkward positioning of the Modified Barium Swallow (MBS) test, as well as the radioactive dye. The Flexible Endoscopic Evaluation of Swallowing, or FEES, is simply inserted in the patient’s nose, and the small camera at the end of the thread gives a crystal-clear view of the patient’s esophagus as they eat and drink.

“You can really see the structure much more clearly than with MBS,” said Megan Moore, a speech therapist at Encompass Health Austin. “During an MBS, the patient is mostly viewed from a side angle, sitting upright at 90 degrees, which is not always realistic. With FEES, you can assess the patient in their more natural positioning.”

The FEES device is portable and can be used in a patient’s room or in a therapy gym. Results are immediate, with the video displayed on a connected monitor simultaneously as the patient eats.

FEES tests can also be performed limitlessly since they don’t require patients to swallow a radioactive dye. Instead, Megan just puts food coloring on the food, so she can spot it coming down.

When Encompass Health Austin got the device, Moore tested it on employees first. Though it caused a bit of a sneezing fit going in on many, she said they ate the candy bars covered in food coloring as she watched them swallowing on the screen.

Moore suspects more therapist would use the FEES tool if they knew how easy and effective it is.

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