Children’s videofluoroscopy swallow study

What is a videofluroscopic swallow study

A videofluoroscopy swallow study is an X-ray that looks at the way your child’s swallowing works. It is one of the number of tests which can be used to investigate any problems your child has with swallowing. It helps the speech and language therapist to identify the reasons for the swallowing problem, and to determine if there are ways to keep swallowing safe. A video recording is made that shows the food moving over the tongue, through the pharynx (throat), and into the oesophagus (gullet). This video recording is a permanent record of the child’s swallowing function.

Who will be in the room during the videofluoroscopy swallow study?

The study is completed in an X-ray room. The speech therapist works with a radiographer. The speech therapist selects food and/or liquid textures which needs to be tested, determines the number of bites and decides when to stop the study. The radiographer sets up the equipment in the room, and assists the radiologist who operates the fluoroscopy equipment, makes medical diagnoses and identifies structural problems. It is possible for parents or caregivers to be present during the study in order to comfort your child. 

Will the child be uncomfortable during the videofluoroscopy swallow study?

No. Unlike many medical tests, the videofluoroscopy swallow study can be a pleasant experience, especially for a young child. The test tries to copy a child’s usual feeding routine. The child is seated in a typical feeding position or one that provides better support for feeding than what is used at home. 

What do I have to bring to the session?

  • Food that your child finds easy to eat and drink, as well as food your child has difficulty with eating
  • Any special seating your child might have, for example, a wheelchair
  • Eating utensils your child uses at home

What should I do on the day of the videofluoroscopy swallow study?

The study involves your child eating food and drinking liquid. It is important that your child is ready to eat and drink when you come for the study. Your child does not need to be starved, as there may be a wait in the X-ray department. 

What happens during the study?

Parents or carers who wish to accompany their child during the swallow study will be asked to wear a lead coat. If you are pregnant or think you could be pregnant, please let us know before the test starts. As a precaution to protect your unborn baby from unnecessary radiation, we advise you to wait in reception until the test is finished. Please bring another adult who can stay with your child during the test. 

You will be asked to bring your child’s usual food and drink to the appointment. We usually ask you to bring something they will find easy and something that can be more difficult to eat. 

A contrast material which acts like a dye is mixed with the food and drink so that this will show up on the X-ray. Infants and children under two usually like the taste of the contrast material. Older children may dislike the taste of the dye. Special food containers, for example the child’s own cup or original packaging (i.e. commercial juice container), may be helpful in hiding the dye from older children.

Your child will be sitting or lying next to a camera depending on your child’s age and seating needs. During the study your child will be asked to eat and drink normally. The camera will be moving and making noises during the test. 

As part of the study it may be useful to make changes such as changing their position, the food texture or utensils used. 

Does the contrast medium cause any problems?

The contrast medium rarely causes any problems. It passes through a child’s digestive system. If your child becomes constipated after the study, offer more liquids or fruit. 

How long does it take to complete a videofluoroscopy swallow study?

The actual swallow test lasts only a few minutes. Additional time is needed to set up the room, prepare foods mixed with barium, and position the child before the recording starts. You may be asked to wait outside while the room is being prepared to avoid the child becoming anxious. The speech therapist might try different utensils and textures during the study to determine the prerequisites of a safe swallow. The entire process takes approximately 30 minutes. 

Due to the high demand of the X-ray room for other tests, your child’s swallow test might be done later than originally booked. We try our best to prevent this, but unfortunately we have to accommodate emergency procedures or other procedures which takes longer than planned. We will, however, keep you informed of any changes to your child’s appointment time.

What happens after the videofluoroscopy swallow study?

After the swallow test, the speech therapist will discuss the results with you. Initial recommendations may be made at this time based on the findings. On some occasions, it may be necessary for the speech therapist to review the recording of the test and discuss the results with your child’s doctor before the final recommendations can be made.


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