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What Happens During a Swallow Study for a Child With Cerebral Palsy?

Posted on in Cerebral Palsy

Cook County birth injury attorney cerebral palsy

Cerebral palsy refers to a group of disorders that affect a person’s ability to move and maintain balance and posture. In many cases, cerebral palsy (CP) is caused by damage to the brain sustained during a birth injury. Symptoms of CP include impaired movement, involuntary movements, unsteady walking, limpness or rigidity of limbs, and atypical posture. The severity of CP differs depending on the person. Some individuals might need braces to help them walk, while others may be confined to a wheelchair and require lifelong care

One of the scariest symptoms for parents of children with CP is dysphagia, or trouble swallowing. Also called oral-motor dysfunction, up to 90 percent of CP sufferers experience dysphagia. If you have concerns about your child’s ability to safely eat and drink, your doctor may suggest a “swallow study.” Read on to learn more about how this important test may help your child with cerebral palsy.

Cerebral Palsy and Choking Concerns

Even for parents whose children do not suffer from a movement disorder, choking is a major fear. It only takes a few minutes for a blocked airway to cause serious injury or death. Babies and children with CP may have trouble coordinating the muscles in the tongue and throat that are used to swallow food. Symptoms of dysphagia may include delayed swallowing reflex, regurgitation, food getting stuck in the throat, gagging, drooling, and heartburn. If your child is experiencing trouble eating or exhibits any of these symptoms, speak to a medical professional about your concerns right away.  

Tests Used to Diagnose Dysphagia

There are several different types of tests that a physician may use to determine whether a child with CP has dysphagia. An ultrasound, CT Scan, or PET Scan may be used to analyze the child’s muscles and soft tissues for abnormalities. A “swallowing test” or dynamic swallow study is another commonly used method to diagnose problems with swallowing in children with CP. During the test, the child is asked to eat a range of foods with different textures. The foods contain a substance called barium, which shows up in an x-ray. As the child eats the food, a real-time X-ray called fluoroscopy is administered. The physician will be able to clearly see the path of the food through the child’s mouth and throat and use this information to determine whether or not dysphagia is a concern. This test can also help determine what types of food and liquid the child has the most trouble swallowing. Parents can use this information to design a diet that gives their child the best chances of avoiding dysphagia-related problems.

Contact a Cook County Birth Injury Lawyer

Cerebral palsy can cause a child to suffer from debilitating muscle impairment and other problems. If you have reason to believe that your child developed CP due to a preventable birth injury, you may be entitled to compensation. In some cases, seeking damages for a medical error can help alleviate the costs of long-term care. Contact Birth Injury Law Alliance, LLC to learn more about your options as a parent of a child with CP. Schedule a free, confidential consultation with an experienced Chicago birth injury attorney from our firm by calling us today at 312-462-4200.



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