Why do I need to have a swallow study?
While you are in the hospital, your doctor may order a swallow study. There is concern you may
have trouble swallowing. In most cases, until this study is finished you will not be allowed to eat
or drink. Sometimes when people have trouble swallowing, food or liquid may be going into the
lungs. If this happens there is a greater risk of pneumonia. This may lead to a longer hospital
Why is my doctor concerned?
ξ Unexplained upper respiratory infection
ξ History of head and neck cancer
ξ New or past problems such as
o traumatic brain injury
o Parkinson's disease
o cerebral palsy
o multiple sclerosis
o myasthenia gravis
o Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS)
ξ Recent history of having a breathing tube in your mouth or throat.
What is a bedside swallow study?
A licensed speech-language pathologist (SLP) from the UW Voice and Swallow Clinic will see
you at your bedside. You will be seated upright in your bed or in a chair. The SLP will check to
see if you are able to swallow ice chips, water, semi-solid and solid foods. They will feel your
neck while you swallow. While you swallow you will be watched for any signs of trouble, such
as clearing your throat or coughing. If there is concern about your ability to swallow, you may
have one of the tests listed below performed.
What is a videofluoroscopic swallow study (VFSS)?
This is like the bedside exam except that moving x-rays are taken while you swallow. You will
be taken to the Radiology Department in a wheel-chair. A camera takes pictures of your mouth
and throat while you swallow liquids, semi-solid and solid foods mixed with barium. This
allows the doctor and SLP to see where the food or liquid is going when you swallow.
What is a fiberoptic endoscopic evaluation of swallow (FEES)?
This is performed at the bedside by an SLP. A small camera (endoscope) is used. You will be
seated upright in your bed or chair for this test. The tube slides through your nostril and allows
the SLP to look right at your throat. Just like the VFSS test, the SLP will watch you swallow to
see where the food and liquid are going. Food coloring may be added to help see the food and
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 © 8/2016 University of Wisconsin Hospitals
and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#6589