AspiRate – Swallow safety assessment for people unable to access existing swallow assessment technologies

Stroke and other neurological disorders commonly lead to swallowing problems where the windpipe is not protected.  This aspiration can lead to chest infections which can be potentially life threatening.  The AspiRate project aims to develop a portable, non-invasive, simple-to-operate and automated device that can be used to screen for silent aspiration.

Project Partners

NIHR Devices for Dignity HTC

Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

University of Cambridge

EPSRC Network – Promoting Real Independence through Design Expertise (PRIDE)

Cambridge University Healthcare Partners

Health and Care Requirement

Dysphagia (disordered swallowing) is a symptom experienced by many different patient groups – for example stroke, cancer, brain injury, MND, MS, dementia, learning difficulties, cerebral palsy and many others.

Dysphagia can lead to aspiration (penetration of food/fluid/secretions into the airway).  This predisposes patients to chest infection, choking/pneumonia, which have a significant mortality rate.  It is therefore important to know if someone is aspirating, so that the most appropriate oral intake and/or tube feeding methods can be implemented.

The “gold standard” assessments for this currently are videofluoroscopy (video X-ray of the swallow process) and FEES (flexible endoscopic evaluation of swallowing), however some patients are unable to access or tolerate these procedures, for example people with cognitive challenges such as learning difficulty or dementia, or those who are bed bound in nursing homes.

The Project Concept

This proof of concept study aims to address this inequity in patient care, by developing a form of swallow assessment technology which can be carried out at bedside and which makes no demands on patient’s cognitive abilities.

The approach will focus on acoustic analysis of respiratory changes pre and post swallow, aiming to detect alterations in respiratory sounds and patterns, to evaluate whether this can reliably indicate aspiration.

D4D are providing:

  • Validation of unmet need
  • Clinical expertise
  • Regulatory advice
  • Funding bid writing expertise
  • Development of prototype technology
  • Proof of concept trial

Next stage of development:

Once evaluation of the reliability, sensitivity and specificity of the new technology has been evaluated to proof-of-concept level, we will be looking to secure funding for a larger scale trial of efficacy and potentially development of the technology to develop and  incorporate AI algorithms to improve overall usability and efficiency.

Image Attribution

Image ‘Oreo milkshake heaven’ courtesy of Farouk Ates. Image reproduced unaltered and licensed under CC BY 2.0. Source.