The efficacy of electrical-stimulation for acquired dysphagia : a critical literature review
Electrical stimulation has been a controversial treatment option for acquired dysphagia since the initial study by Freed, Freed, Chatburn, and Christian (2001). This report investigates the efficacy of electrical stimulation by addressing three issues related to the use of this technique: 1) the movement of the hyolaryngeal complex during stimulation, 2) the population(s) for which electrical stimulation is efficacious, and 3) the necessity of combining electrical stimulation with traditional treatments for the treatment to be effective. Twenty-two studies were evaluated and revealed overall positive findings for the use of electrical stimulation as a treatment technique. To further analyze the strength of these findings, the studies were evaluated for methodological limitations with regards to participant selection, treatment design, and outcome measure selection. This analysis revealed two main methodological limitations: 1) a lack of established treatment protocol which led to differences in how and with what other techniques electrical stimulation was used and 2) an absence of follow-up measures. While these factors do not appear to affect the applicability of the study findings, future research should focus developing a treatment protocol and investigating the long-term benefits of electrical stimulation treatment.