Videofluoroscopic Swallow Study

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The oral motor evaluation (OME) and videofluoroscopic (VID ee oh floor oh SKOP ick) swallow study (VFSS) is a special test that shows how safely your child can swallow food and liquids.

How to Prepare For the Test

  • Explain to your child what will happen. Use words he or she can understand.
  • Bring your child’s bottle, spoon, or cup. We only stock a small variety of sip cups, bottles and nipples.
  • There is no need to bring any liquids for the study.
  • If your child is a picky eater, or has food allergies, bring food that he or she will or can eat.
  • If your child has problems with certain foods or textures please bring those foods to the study.
  • You may give medicine to your child at any time before the test.
  • You MUST bring the child’s insurance card and a photo ID card of the caregiver who is present during the study.
  • If you do not have legal custody of the child you MUST bring written permission to attend this test and receive any test results.
  • Please do not give your child food or drinks after 6:15 am or after 11:15 am. 

How the Test is Done

Child having fluoroscopic swallow study

  • Your child will sit in a chair that looks like a car seat (Picture 1).
  • He or she will usually be fed in the same feeding position that you use at home. The Occupational Therapist (OT), the Speech Language Pathologist (SLP), or the doctor may also want to watch your child eat in other positions.
  • Parents and caregivers may watch the test while it is being done. Other children and pregnant women are not allowed in the test room. They should not be exposed to the x-ray.
  • The study is done in the Radiology Department by a radiologist, an SLP, or an OT.
  • The liquid used during the test is barium (BARE ee um). Food used during the test will be mixed with barium. Barium makes the food and liquid show up on the X-ray screen so the doctor, the OT and the SLP can see how well your child chews and swallows. The barium may make the food taste a little different.
  • Your child may be given several types of food and liquid during the test.

Inside a child's mouth and throat

  • There will be a large X-ray camera on one side of your child and a large x-ray table on the other side of him (Picture 1).
  • When the X-ray machine is turned on, it will make a clicking noise. The camera will record how your child eats and drinks.
  • The doctor, the OT and the SLP will watch how the muscles in your child's mouth and throat move the food and liquid when the child is drinking, chewing and swallowing (Picture 2).
  • The entire process usually takes about 2 hours. It does not hurt your child.
  • If you have any questions during the test, please ask the radiologist or the therapists.

After the Test

Your child will be sent home with the first of the findings and recommendations.

  • It takes 24 to 48 hours for the full report to be completed. Your child's doctor will receive the test results and will discuss them with you then.
  • If necessary, we will teach you about the foods and liquids that are recommended for your child.
  • You may notice a small amount of white barium in your child's bowel movements after the test. (It may look like chalk.) This will go away as the barium moves all the way through the bowels.

If you have questions before the test or need to change the appointment, please call: Nationwide Children’s Hospital Speech Pathology Department at (614) 722-3975.

Videofluoroscopic Swallow Study (PDF)

HH-III-80 1/92 Revised 8/16 Copyright 1992 Nationwide Children’s Hospital