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ABOUT US

Quality Product  |  Family Owned

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Dr. Erich Luschei, PhD

Founder & President
Dr. Erich Luschei, PhD founded IOPI Medical LLC (fka IOPI Northwest LLC) in 2001. Dr. Luschei is President of the company. He developed the IOPI while a professor in the speech department at the University of Iowa in 1992. Erich specialized in research on the neurophysiology of oral motor control. Now retired from University activity, he still takes an active role in day to day IOPI Medical activity.
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Dr. Tara Hart, PhD

CEO
Dr. Tara Hart, PhD, has been the CEO of IOPI Medical LLC since 2010. She has a PhD from the Department of Environmental Health from the University of Washington. She is also Dr. Erich Luschei's daughter and became inspired by the global potential of the IOPI device after she joined the Board of Directors. She has been instrumental in developing the new Series 3 product line as well as establishing IOPI® as a global brand. In her spare time she enjoys anything active, particularly escaping to the mountains.
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Amy Temple

Sales & Marketing Director
Amy Temple is the Sales & Marketing Director of IOPI Medical. Amy has a background in public relations, working with a variety of technology companies. Prior to IOPI Medical she was an account manager at Velvet PR in London, UK. Previously she held positions at Hoffman Europe and Inferno Communications working on clients such as Microsoft, Axis Communications & SolarWinds. When not in the office Amy enjoys spending time with her friends and family at their aptly named Deer Cottage.
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Mallory Rauch

Biomedical Engineer
Mallory Rauch is the Biomedical Engineer of IOPI Medical. She is a 2016 graduate of the biomedical engineering program at Rochester Institute of Technology where her coursework included instruction in the development of biomedical devices and project management. Mallory enjoys travel and is looking forward to many future adventures.

Quality Policy

IOPI Medical is committed to designing, manufacturing, and marketing high quality instruments that are reliable, safe, and easy to use by health professionals working with patients with oral motor problems affecting swallowing and speech. IOPI Medical strives to provide excellent customer service throughout the lifetime of its products, including technical advice about the device, its uses, and relevant research. IOPI Medical’s policy is to implement a quality management system and processes to meet the regulatory requirements and standards where IOPI Medical products are sold.

Company History

Dr. Erich Luschei founded IOPI Medical LLC (fka IOPI Northwest LLC) in 2001. Dr. Luschei is President of the company, his wife, Nancy, is Vice-President, and their daughter, Tara Hart, is the CEO. In 2011, the company became certified to ISO 13485:2003 under the Canadian Medical Device Regulation and the IOPI System became CE marked.

Invention History

Initial steps

As the result of a question posed by a fellow faculty member, “can you think of a way to measure the strength of the tongue in children?” Dr. Erich Luschei began experimenting with various transducers in 1988. Methods based upon strain gauges applied to various “beam” substrates had been used effectively in the laboratory of other scientists to measure tongue strength, but they did not seem easily adapted to widespread clinical measurement, particularly for children. One of the problems of using a strain-gauge based system to measure the strength of a push with the tongue is that the “beam” whatever its shape, needs to be a rather rigid material having some degree of “spring” to it. In this case, the tongue, a soft complaint tissue, comes into contact with the edge of the rigid beam or its appurtenances, e.g. a “cradle” attached to the strain gauge beam. Dr. Luschei discovered, in experiments using himself as the subject, that no matter how the strain gauge “beam” was shaped, the interface between the tongue and its contact with the edge of the strain gauge beam was always painful, or at least uncomfortable, during a maximal strength effort with the tongue. This was significant because, if the response was painful, one would be measuring pain tolerance rather than strength. A painful response would be particularly critical when testing a child. This observation, along with other problems with using a strain gauge system, led Dr. Luschei to try to think of other approaches to the problem, and it occurred to him to measure the pressure created in a small, compliant bulb when it is pushed against the roof of the mouth with the tongue. It is unusual to use pressure rather than force to measure strength, but it is to be remembered that “strength” is a concept, not the method that is used to measure it.

IOPI design and first tests

Dr. Luschei began to work with Professor Donald A. Robin, a faculty colleague, at this stage of the IOPI’s development. Dr. Robin suggested that it would be possible to measure tongue endurance as well as tongue strength by measuring how long a subject could sustain a tongue pressure of 50% of their maximum pressure. Dr. Luschei then developed an electronic circuit that would measure tongue strength and endurance while, at the same time, would be portable and easy to use by someone not familiar with electronics. Dr. Luschei built several of these units and Dr. Robin began to use them with students and normal volunteers of various ages and gender. These measurements established that the measures of tongue strength, in any one person, were very reliable (repeatable), and the maximum tongue strength and endurance compared between different people, while variable, showed a clear central tendency.

Testimonials

I consider the IOPI a very valuable and effective tool in my work with patients experiencing dysphagia. The IOPI is easy for patients to use in the home, clinic or at the bedside and offers the patient concrete feedback regarding their effort. This has a profound impact on patient motivation and willingness to participate in treatment. The IOPI allows the clinician to also incorporate principles of exercise science that will improve effectiveness of the treatment. The clinician can measure baseline effort, calculate discrete goals for strength training and then continually adjust that training goal to progressively challenge patient effort. By... Read More

I consider the IOPI a very valuable and effective tool in my work with patients experiencing dysphagia. The IOPI is easy for patients to use in the home, clinic or at the bedside and offers the patient concrete feedback regarding their effort. This has a profound impact on patient motivation and willingness to participate in treatment. The IOPI allows the clinician to also incorporate principles of exercise science that will improve effectiveness of the treatment. The clinician can measure baseline effort, calculate discrete goals for strength training and then continually adjust that training goal to progressively challenge patient effort. By using the objective measures available with the IOPI, patients can see their progress over time and the clinician can document these objective changes. This, rather than the traditional method of just doing the same repetitive tasks while subjectively asking the patient to “try harder” over time, keeps the patient engaged and also leads to greater outcomes. In my opinion, all dysphagia clinicians should have an IOPI in their treatment arsenal.

Lori M. Burkhead, PhD, CCC-SLP
Assistant Professor / Medical College of Georgia

We have been using the IOPI for the past 8 years in the Swallowing Rehabilitation Research Laboratory at the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute, both for measuring tongue pressures in research studies, and as a biofeedback tool in therapy. The device is easy to use, and, in our experience, provides reliable pressures across repeated measurements from the same individual. Dr. Luschei has been very helpful in guiding our use of the device for research. In therapy, it is our experience that both patients and clinicians find it extremely motivating to have a target number to shoot for when doing tongue-pressure exercises. Similarly,... Read More

We have been using the IOPI for the past 8 years in the Swallowing Rehabilitation Research Laboratory at the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute, both for measuring tongue pressures in research studies, and as a biofeedback tool in therapy. The device is easy to use, and, in our experience, provides reliable pressures across repeated measurements from the same individual. Dr. Luschei has been very helpful in guiding our use of the device for research.

In therapy, it is our experience that both patients and clinicians find it extremely motivating to have a target number to shoot for when doing tongue-pressure exercises. Similarly, it is extremely helpful to be able to give immediate feedback to the patient regarding their success in hitting the target. These features are really critical to being able to provide and maintain motivation within a treatment session and across a course of therapy. In our protocol, patients are encouraged to do 60 targeted tongue-palate presses in a session, which generally lasts about 45 minutes. Over the course of 24 treatment sessions, scheduled 2-3 times per week, we have been able to replicate the work of Dr. JoAnne Robbins, showing that maximum tongue-palate pressures increase in patients with neurogenic dysphagia.

In our protocol, we limit swallowing exercises with the device to saliva swallows. There are some studies in the literature in which a bolus has been introduced to the mouth while the bulb is in place, but we prefer not to do this. It is our feeling that the bulb occupies the space usually taken up by the bolus, and the combination of a bulb and a bolus might alter bolus positioning in a way that is not helpful for a patient. If a patient is ready to swallow a bolus in therapy, we reserve this task for the end of the session and do it without the bulb.

We are encouraged that almost all of our patients show significant improvements in tongue strength with a tongue-palate pressure exercise protocol using the IOPI. About 30% of these individuals with dysphagia post stroke are also showing functional improvements in swallowing after 24 sessions of treatment. We are currently exploring modifications to our protocol in the hope of improving this statistic.

Catriona M. Steele
Senior Scientist and Director, Swallowing Rehabilitation Research Lab / Toronto Rehabilitation Institute

I am directing ALL of our students as a must to include the IOPI measurements for ALL of their patients. I fell it is the best measurement of success of therapy. I have to be honest with you.  I did not always use it until I put in my mouth and saw how it feels and how easy it was to use.  I now include it in my intake forms that I teach with.

Joy L. Moeller, BS, RDH
Orofacial Myofunctional Therapist
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