Douglas, a grain farmer from Queensland, was suffering from severe neck pain and underwent surgery in October 2018. Following complications, Douglas unfortunately became a C4 incomplete quadriplegic meaning he has lost diaphragm function, limited range of motion and partial paralysis of his upper and lower limbs.
Following acute care, Douglas was transferred to Royal Rehab as in inpatient in the Spinal Injury Unit.
According to speech pathologist Vanessa Arratia, ‘’among other areas, the injury caused dysphagia– difficulty swallowing – which means that Douglas is nil by mouth and gets his food, fluids and medicines directly into the stomach through a feeding tube. Improving swallowing was high on Douglas’ and the clinical team’s list of priorities. He was a perfect candidate to trial our new sEMG technology.’’
The surface electromyography (sEMG) machine recently implemented at Royal Rehab is a biofeedback and electrotherapy unit that provides clients with feedback and monitoring of swallowing.
Vanessa explained, ‘’The sEMG machine allows our clients to visualise their swallowing, actually see their performance and track progress. Used in conjunction with traditional therapy approaches, the machine may assist clients to train their muscles faster with more effectiveness and increased intensity.
‘’The sEMG machine also provides accurate quantitative data for speech pathologists at Royal Rehab to document the client’s progress. The visualisation of the performance increases motivation and a sense of achievement for clients undergoing dysphagia rehabilitation.’’
Douglas has now been using the sEMG machine regularly over the last two months and has found the machine tremendously beneficial when practicing his swallowing exercises.
Through therapy, Douglas learned to complete swallowing rehab exercises which he will now be able to complete independently back at home without the visual feedback from the sEMG.
This new piece of technology will further assist Royal Rehab clinicians and clients to achieve optimal rehabilitation outcomes and increase our clients’ functional capacity and independence.