Pediatric Videofluoroscopic Swallow Study (VFSS)
Frequently asked Questions
What is a swallow study (VFSS)?
A special test using x-ray to test your child’s
swallow function. The test shows how
liquid and food moves over the tongue,
through the pharynx and into the esophagus.
A speech pathologist is a person who does
This test helps us:
ξ Learn about the reasons for the
ξ Learn about ways to assist your child
with swallowing in a safe way
Pictures taken during the test are saved in
your child’s medical electronic record, and
may be looked at any time by your child’s
Who takes part in the swallow study?
A speech pathologist does the test in a
radiology room. A radiologist operates the
camera, and helps make medical diagnoses
and identify structural problems with
swallowing. We want you to be there during
the test to help keep your child calm and
cooperative. Anyone who is pregnant
cannot be in the room during the x-ray part
of the study. If you are pregnant, please
bring a person who your child is
comfortable with, to help during the x-ray.
What happens during a swallow study?
The test may be done with your child lying
on the x-ray table or sitting in a tumble form
inserted into a high chair. A standard chair
or the child’s wheelchair is used for older
What should I bring to the test?
ξ Foods and liquids your child can
swallow without problems.
ξ Foods and liquids your child has
ξ Bottle and/or cup your child uses at
ξ Your child’s favorite toys.
What does a speech pathologist do,
during the study?
ξ Mixes the food and liquid you
brought from home with barium
sulfate that allows the food and
liquid to be seen on the x-ray video.
ξ Works with you to give your child
foods and liquids you brought from
ξ Decides the order and amount of
foods and liquids to give.
Depending on how your child is
doing, may change the thickness or
thinness of the foods and liquids.
ξ May change your child’s position.
ξ May change your child’s feeding
ξ After the test is done, will look at the
video of the test with you and talk
with you about results and
How long does the test take?
You are scheduled for a 1 hour appointment.
The first ½ hour is for getting information
from you, setting up the room, mixing the
foods you brought with barium and
positioning your child for the test.
Once the actual test starts, it should only a
few minutes. The amount of time depends
on your child’s
ξ Interest and cooperation.
ξ How many foods and liquids are
ξ How many types of thicknesses and
thinness of foods and liquids are
ξ How many feeding techniques are
How much radiation exposure is there
during a swallow study?
It is a small amount like other x-rays of the
neck. The risk is low compared to the risks
of aspiration. If you have concerns or
questions, please feel free to talk to the
radiologist during the test.
Does the barium taste bad? Infants and
children under 18 months typically accept
the taste of the barium. Older children may
not like the taste or texture of the barium.
The barium is mixed into the foods and
liquids you brought from home and can help
your child with the taste of the barium. We
also have flavored kool-aide powder to add
to the liquids as needed.
Does the barium have any side effects?
Not usually. If your child is also having an
upper GI which includes drinking more
barium, your child may have some
whiteness in the stool or mild constipation
after the test. To help the barium pass
through your child’s digestive system, give
more liquids or fruit after the test.
Will my child have pain during the
There are no actions performed during the
test that cause pain. Some children are
afraid of the unknown. Others are afraid of
being in an exam room or hospital where
they may have had other procedures that were
We want you and your child to be as
comfortable as possible during the test. Before
the test date, the speech pathologist will talk
with you about what happens during the test.
Your child may be part of this conversation if
you would like. Some parents have short talks
with their children at home to get ready for the
Where do families go for the swallow study
procedure through UW Health?
There are two locations that our outpatient
pediatric swallow studies are done. The
scheduler, who makes your appointment, will
tell you the location of your child’s swallow
1. American Family Children’s Hospital
(AFCH) - (1675 Highland Avenue,
Madison, WI 53792)
Please check in on the first floor in the
Radiology Pavilion, near the Guest
Depot. The examining SLP will meet
you in the waiting area.
2. Digestive Health Center (DHC) – (750
University Row, Madison, WI 53705)
Please check in on the 3rd floor, in the
**NOTE: If you have any questions or
if you need to cancel or reschedule your
appointment, please contact the UW
Outpatient Pediatric Rehab clinic ASAP,
at (608) 263-8412.
Your health care team may have given you this information as part of your care. If so, please use it and call if you
have any questions. If this information was not given to you as part of your care, please check with your doctor. This
is not medical advice. This is not to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Because each
person’s health needs are different, you should talk with your doctor or others on your health care team when using
this information. If you have an emergency, please call 911. Copyright © 5/2016. University of Wisconsin Hospitals
and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#7899.