Helen KenediDysphagia is claimed to be the medical term for the symptom of trouble in swallowing. Scientists from the UT Dallas Callier Center for Communication Disorders and Baylor Institute for Rehabilitation (BIR) are working together to examine the consequences of drinking water on patients suffering from dysphagia.

Their study would record the advantages and troubles of the ‘free water protocol,’ which allows patients to have water and ice instead of limiting them to liquids that have been unnaturally thickened.

Helen Kenedi, MS, principal investigator of the study and clinical lecturer in the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences, commented, “Currently, some medical practitioners discourage patients with dysphagia from drinking water due to concerns that aspiration of the water into the lungs may result in pneumonia. Patients who are denied access to water often report that they are thirsty, are dehydrated and have a decreased quality of life.”

Based on the patient reports, Kathy Panther, speech-language pathologist and rehabilitation director for the Frazier Rehabilitation Institute in Louisville, Ky., crafted a protocol that enables patients to access sterilized ice and water before and following meals. In theory, the properties of uncontaminated water may not be injurious to the lungs, so aspirating the water could be a benign event.

Even through Panther reported enhanced quality of life among patients subsequent to the free water protocol, Kenedi’s study is claimed to be the first of its kind to neutrally take a note of other likely good and bad effects.

Kenedi remarked, “Given our aging population, dysphagia is likely to become more prevalent as people suffer from strokes, traumatic brain injury or dementia. Documentation of the effects of the free water protocol will contribute to better management of individuals with swallowing disorders.”

The researchers are all set to examine patients who would be given the free water protocol as part of their routine clinical care at Baylor Institute for Rehabilitation.

Kenedi hopes the results of the study will help to clarify the possible benefits of the free water protocol and the kind of patients with whom it can be implemented.