Filiz Bunyak Ersoy, PhD, Zhihai (Henry) He, PhD, and Teresa Lever, PhD

Principal Investigators

Filiz Bunyak Ersoy, PhD

Department of Computer Science

Zhihai (Henry) He, PhD

Department of Electrical &Computer Engineering

Teresa Lever, PhD

Department of Otolaryngology

Zhihai (Henry) He, PhD (left)
Teresa Lever, PhD (middle)
Filiz Bunyak Ersoy, PhD (right)

Down the Hatch Solutions

Approximately 15 million people in the United States currently are living with dysphagia, a swallowing impairment, as a result of stroke, neurologic diseases, cancer and congenital abnormalities. Nearly one million new dysphagia diagnoses are made annually. Patients with dysphagia have an impaired laryngeal adductor reflex – the reflex that normally prevents aspiration – and often aspirate food and liquids into their lungs. Approximately 50 percent of dysphagic patients who aspirate develop aspiration pneumonia, which is the leading cause of hospitalization, hospital readmission and death. Current tools used to assess the LAR fail to predict which patients are at risk for aspiration pneumonia. The principal investigators are developing a novel clinical tool to assess the LAR in patients with dysphagia that enables clinicians to visualize the entire larynx during endoscopic LAR testing and permits automated quantification of several novel outcome measures from video-recorded LAR responses. The investigators have a working prototype of the dysphagia assessment tool and have performed preliminary animal studies demonstrating that the LAR outcome measures using the tool are highly correlated with dysphagia and are differentially diagnostic of the underlying disease state. The tool also has been used to characterize the LAR in healthy adults in an IRB-approved study. The next critical step is to test the system in patients with dysphagia in order to move toward clinical use of the tool to predict aspiration pneumonia risk and identify effective prevention and treatment strategies.