Nicole DePalma, MS CCC-SLP presented at the American Speech and Hearing Association (ASHA) in Boston in November 2024. Her presentation was titled Decannulation: The Expanding Role of the Speech-Language Pathologist. In the course of her career, Nicole has seen hundreds of patients with tracheostomy. One of her passions is to educate others on tracheostomy care. “It’s important to understand the anatomical changes in breathing and swallowing that occur after a tracheostomy. Patients are at high risk of adverse events if clinicians caring for these patients are not trainig. Often times the tracheostomy tube is left in place without clinicians understanding when the tracheostomy is ready for removal.
Speech-language pathologists are experts in anatomy of the aerodigestive system. Nicole’s presentation demonstrates the significant role a speech-language pathologist can play in helping to determine decannulation status. Some factors for decannulation include secretion management, cough strength, airway patency and that the initial reason for the tracheostomy tube has been resolved.
Flexible endoscopic evaluation of swallowing is an important piece to assisting with the decannulation process. Speech-language pathologists assess secretion management, cough strength and airway patency in order to help make recommendation for tracheostomy weaning. Speaking valves and caps are also part of the speech-language pathologist’s role.
You can find a longer verson of the presentation at Tracheostomy Education.