Trouble swallowing is a common problem for people with Parkinson’s disease, occurring in up to 80 percent of cases. Swallowing problems can lead to drooling, increased risk of pneumonia and difficulty eating. One of the best ways to improve swallowing is to swallow more at home as an exercise.
A soft, wearable, and wireless device placed on the upper chest that gently vibrates to remind people with Parkinson’s to swallow more with greater force will strengthen the associated muscles of swallowing, improve swallowing function long term, and reduce the risk of choking events.
We will first make device improvements to extend the battery life to two days and improve the software on the device. Then, we will do focus groups with people with Parkinson’s to get their feedback. After that, we will make additional improvements. The next phase of the project will include testing the device on 20 people with Parkinson’s to see if it improves swallowing at home after 12 weeks of use.
Impact on Diagnosis/Treatment of Parkinson’s Disease:
We believe that this device will help people with Parkinson’s with swallowing problems improve their ability to swallow better in a non-disruptive way. When they swallow better, they will have a lower risk of pneumonia and choking.
Next Steps for Development:
This study will provide important data on how feasible and useful the sensor is for people with Parkinson’s. It will also provide some early information on its effectiveness allowing us to attract more funding and conduct a larger clinical trial in anticipation of applying for regulatory approval.