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Prototype ‘Piercing’ Restores Man’s Ability to Swallow

Surgeon Peter Belafsky had been tinkering with ways to treat oropharyngeal dysphagia–a swallowing disorder that, when severe, can prevent people from being able to swallow at all–for years.

But it wasn’t until he took his two daughters to get their ears pierced–and noticed the woman behind the counter with piercings in her nose, eyebrow, and even cleavage–that he realized how to do it, and a device to manually open and close the esophagus was born.

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Manual Control of the Upper Esophageal Sphincter

Oropharyngeal dysphagia (OPD) is common and costly. In order to improve quality of life for patients and costs to society, better treatments than currently available are needed. The author hypothesized that manual control of the upper esophageal sphincter (UES) is possible by pulling the larynx directly forward with anterior traction on the cricoid cartilage. The purpose of this investigation was to evaluate the effectiveness of manual control of the UES as a possible therapy for OPD.

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