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HealthInfo Waitaha Canterbury

Videofluoroscopic swallowing study for children

Rangahau tirohanga ā-horomi ki ngā tamariki

A videofluoroscopic swallowing study (VFSS) is used to look at your child's swallowing. It is also called a modified barium swallow. The study is used to investigate your child's swallowing problems. It is also used to guide how to manage and treat them.

You can think of the study as an X-ray movie of your tamaiti (child) swallowing. It shows how food and drink move through their mouth, throat and food pipe (oesophagus).

A speech-language therapist runs the study with help from medical imaging technologists and radiologists. It can be done through the public system. This is at Christchurch Hospital. It can also be done privately at St George's Hospital. This is through the University of Canterbury Rose Centre for Stroke Recovery and Research.

Preparing for a videofluoroscopic swallowing study

Your tamaiti can eat, drink, have tube feeds and take any medicines as usual before the study. But it is helpful if your tamaiti is hungry enough to eat and drink during the study.

What to bring to a videofluoroscopic swallowing study

Bring your child's usual food and drink:

Make sure your tamaiti is not wearing any metal on their head or upper body. This includes jewellery and metal clothes fasteners. These can get in the way of the X-rays. They can wear glasses if needed.

During a videofluoroscopic swallowing study

Your child's speech-language therapist will explain the procedure. They will also tell you which food and drinks they will be giving to your tamaiti. Tell your speech-language therapist about any allergies they have. Also, any dietary or cultural requirements that they have.

You should stay with your tamaiti during the study. You will be given a lead apron to wear.

Depending on your child’s age, they may be seated in a normal chair. Or a seat like a car seat or their own seating system.

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

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

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

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

After a videofluoroscopic swallowing study

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

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

Written by speech-language therapists, Te Whatu Ora – Health New Zealand Waitaha Canterbury. Adapted by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed July 2023.


Page reference: 424183

Review key: HISWD-121957