Problem-Solving with Catherine: Repeat Swallow Studies

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How often are swallow studies typically repeated? Yearly or just when there is a status change until not needed?

Catherine’s Answer:

Since our goal is to minimize radiation, especially with infants, it’s key to look closely at the risk-benefit ratio of a repeat study. Most often that means: if there is decline in swallow function despite following recommendations from most recent study; if there is a change in patient status (illness, new co morbidity, regression in overall skills, consideration of G-Tube removal or decannulation for example); if the results from the most recent study were tenuous or based on limited or inconsistent data, or the SLP lacked confidence in the results; if there were technical problems ( unable to record so review of physiology not possible leaving results less assuring) for example. When we lock ourselves into an arbitrary number of weeks or months for a repeat study, then our clinical thinking can become arbitrary and generic instead of based on that patient’s unique history, co morbidities and clinical impression as to how fragile swallowing physiology is — even with interventions. Especially when we consider that child’s feeding environment (need for modifications, parent follow through and fragility of medical status, for example). The decision about timing for each child will be unique. It’s a good reminder about avoiding arbitrary points in time for anything in our clinical planning/practice. Your unique patient is always the guide.


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