Problem-Solving with Catherine: Complex One-Year-Old Post VFSS


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I have a question/need help please! A patient recently was added to my caseload. Another SLP at a different facility completed his MBSS and notes no aspiration but flash penetration with all liquid consistencies.  The family was recommended to thicken liquids to nectar thick with oatmeal, and for us to trial weaning from NTL. My facility is not familiar with IDDSI recommendations or thickening with oatmeal.

Is anyone familiar with thickening with oatmeal, and if so, what guidelines do you use for measurement? (What’s the ratio for thickening with oatmeal?)

Also, the patient just turned one year old. He presents with lingual and labial restrictions and consistent open mouth posture. Parents were told by an ENT his mouth is “perfect” so despite my recommendations for a second opinion, they refuse to. They also refuse e-stim therapy to help target pharyngeal phase deficits.

The SLP who completed his MBSS also recommended they go down to a Dr. Browns Level 1 nipple for thin liquids. We have been working on oral phase deficits; however, I feel we are at a plateau due to things behind my control (anatomy). Any recommendations on how to proceed?


Catherine’s Answer:

Missing info both about history, co-morbidities, and specifics from VFSS which makes it hard to problem solve. Without that data we might just be guessing and selecting interventions that don’t align, might be unsafe or contraindicated. You might not have been given that info but it is key to problem solving—- All we know is there was flash penetration and no aspiration —that doesn’t help much because we are missing information about physiology/pathophysiology —but you mentioned “oral and pharyngeal phase deficits “ in passing — the open mouth posture and other issues may be related to nasal airway patency, hypotonia, poor postural control, global impacts of TOTs, and multiple other factors that may be identified through his history and clinical presentation. That he did not aspirate doesn’t mean his swallowing physiology isn’t precarious —in the setting of his co morbidities (which we don’t fully understand). Recent research at Boston Childrens suggests laryngeal penetrations in the setting of co-morbidities are not necessarily benign — meaning they may benefit from interventions. Not necessarily thickening but even change in utensil or rate of drinking to avert the penetrations. All that should be problem solved during the VFSS including best way to avert penetrations and improve the dynamic swallow. And thickening is a last resort, so we hope other interventions were trialed and objectified. If thickening was the only option left, objectifying the best way to do that while under fluoroscopy is essential. Because clinically we would be guessing at what “works” since we can’t objectify impact of the possible interventions. And that is why starting a weaning of the thickened liquids isn’t the first or next consideration in managing this patient. Too many missing and moving parts. Sorry I don’t have suggestions yet —my mind is moving out of necessity to lots of questions to help me then consider potential solutions. Pause and look again at what pieces are missing, gather that data, consider that based on history and comorbidities, and clinical behaviors.


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