SLP's Role in Treating Trismus
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A Physician's Personal Experience with Trismus

Recently, I came across a YouTube video, made by Atos, in which a physician was interviewed about his severe trismus and the impact of Therabite on his quality of life. The doctor being interviewed was diagnosed with base of tongue cancer in 2009 and had extensive radiotherapy and multiple operations to remove the cancer. 

As I watched the video, I could see the doctor, Dr. Keil, struggle with swallowing his secretions and xerostomia. Although my computer volume was as high as it could go and the doctor was wearing a microphone, his muffled speech from the trismus and surgeries made it difficult to capture important details of his story. Even the closed caption could not adequately relay his speech. Sadly, Dr. Keil makes multiple statements about that the "isolation," "social," and "mental" he has experienced as a result of trismus and dysphagia, which he says have been most devastating to his quality of life. 

Watch the 10-minute video and additional comments below.

Personal experience using TheraBite - Dr  Keil
Did you notice that Dr. Keil mentions physical therapy, but not speech therapy? Dr. Keil adds, "There's a lot of social things that go along with this, almost worse than the physical [problems]." His dysarthria and oropharyngeal dysphagia concerns are a constant in his responses, and I could not help but think, Where is your SLP? This patient seems to have been a missed opportunity for PTs and SLPs to collaborate in order to improve this patient's quality of life and treatment outcome. Jaw mobility devices can improve mouth opening to achieve improved speech intelligibility and a safer, more effective swallow function, but these are not the treatment goals of the physical therapist. SLPs cannot intervene if other medical professionals do not know SLPs are qualified to treat trismus for these reasons.

While this video was made in 2012, this interview still serves as an illustration of our profession's need to develop better working relationships with physicians and physical therapists so that trismus patients like these do not have to accept the social restrictions placed on them by trismus. Let's not just hope we have come a long way since 2012. We have work to do!
Copyright © 2016 Vitae SLP Services LLC, All rights reserved.

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