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The videofluoroscopic swallowing study – what is it and who needs it?

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We’ve all had experiences like taking a sip of water and it having it go down the ‘wrong pipe’ or struggling to get our pills down, but what if it happens regularly or is happening more often? Your doctor may suggest that you partake in a videofluoroscopic swallowing study (VFSS) to determine what’s happening while you swallow. A swallowing study can determine if medication, speech therapy, certain positioning or a change in the foods you eat will help you improve your ability to eat and drink more safely. Your doctor may recommend a VFSS if you experience:

  • Complaints of food sticking in your throat
  • Frequent coughing or choking on food or liquid
  • Frequent heartburn and/or burning in your throat
  • Frequent throat clearing
  • Painful swallowing, or taking extra effort to swallow
  • Weight loss due to not being able to eat
  • Gagging or vomiting while eating

In addition, patients with certain medical diagnoses may need repeated swallowing studies to document changes in their ability to swallow food and liquid. These conditions include:

  • Stroke
  • Neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s Disease, ALS or advanced Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Cancers of the head, neck and chest

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