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Pediatric Swallowing Studies and FEES

Problems with swallowing may happen as a result of a traumatic or non-traumatic injury, or from an illness. When a child’s swallow is affected it's called dysphagia. Dysphagia can occur anywhere in the swallowing process and prevents getting and keeping food in the mouth and being able to move it down the throat and then into the stomach.

If your child has dysphagia, a change in their diet may be required for safety, such as soft foods, or no thin liquids. Sometimes an alternate feeding source needs to be put in place to be sure your child receives enough nutrition and fluids, such as a surgically or non surgically placed feeding tube.

At Mary Free Bed, the speech-language pathologist evaluates and treats swallowing problems in children. The evaluation may be in the form of a clinical bedside evaluation or by one of two procedures, called videofluoroscopy study or FEES study.

The videofluoroscopy study involves different types of food and liquid consistencies that are mixed with barium. While your child eats or swallows the food product that is administered by the Speech Language Pathologist, the radiologist takes a moving video x-ray of the food or liquid as it starts in the mouth and then makes its way through the swallowing process. What the Speech Language Pathologist is looking at is whether the food or liquid is going into the stomach, as it should, or whether it is going into the airway and lungs, which is what you don’t want to happen. If food products enter the lungs, called aspiration, your child is at risk for infection.

The FEES study (Fiberoptic Endoscopic Evaluation of Swallowing) involves passing a flexible scope attached to a camera through the nose and into the middle of the throat. The speech- language pathologist, who is competency trained in this procedure, takes pictures of the swallowing process as your child takes in food and liquids. Again, the therapist is looking at the swallowing process and making sure that the food or liquid is not going into the airway or lungs.

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