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HealthInfo Canterbury

Video swallow study for children

A video swallow study is used to look at your child's swallowing. The study is also called a videofluoroscopic swallow study (VFSS) or a modified barium swallow.

You can think of the study as an X-ray movie of your child swallowing. It shows how they transfer food and drink through their mouth and throat. The study is used to investigate swallowing problems and to help decide how they should be managed.

The study is done by a speech language therapist.

How do we prepare for the swallow study?

Your child can eat, drink, have tube feeds and take any medicines as usual before the study. As the study involves eating and drinking, it's helpful if your child is hungry enough to eat and drink during the study.

What do I need to bring?

Bring your child’s usual food and drink:

Please make sure your child isn't wearing any metal on their head or upper body, such as jewellery or metal clothes fasteners. These can get in the way of the X-rays. Your child can wear glasses if needed.

What will happen during the swallow study?

Your child's speech language therapist will go through the procedure and tell you which food and drinks they will be giving to your child. Before the study starts, please tell your speech language therapist about any allergies, or dietary or cultural requirements that your child has.

You should stay with your child during the study. You'll be given a lead apron to wear.

Depending on your child’s age, they'll be seated in a normal chair, a seat similar to a car seat, or their own seating system.

The speech language therapist will give your child different types of food to swallow. These will be mixed with a contrast material (usually barium) so they show up on the X-ray.

Your child will be encouraged to eat as normally as possible during the study. The speech language therapist may change things like the food texture, the eating utensils or your child's sitting position.

Sometimes it's helpful to do a fatigue test. This means that the camera is turned off for a short time while your child keeps eating and drinking. The camera is then turned on again to look for any changes to their swallowing that might be due to them getting tired.

How long will it take?

The speech language therapist will see you for 20 to 30 minutes before the study. The study usually takes 20 minutes.

If your child's speech language therapist has already talked to you about the study, you may go straight to the X-ray room for the procedure.

What happens after my child's swallow study?

The speech language therapist may make some recommendations at the time of the study. They may also need to arrange a separate time to discuss the findings in more detail.

The speech language therapist and radiologist will both review the study. They'll send a report to you and to the other health professionals involved in your child's care.

Written by Paediatric Speech Language Therapy Department, Canterbury DHB. Adapted by HealthInfo clinical advisers. August 2017.

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Page reference: 424183

Review key: HISWD-121957