Official reprint from UpToDate®
www.uptodate.com ©2016 UpToDate®

Evaluation of dysphagia in children

Ronald A Furnival, MD
George A Woodward, MD
Section Editor
Gary R Fleisher, MD
Deputy Editor
James F Wiley, II, MD, MPH


The primary function of swallowing is the ingestion, preparation, and transport of nutrients to the digestive tract. Secondary functions of swallowing are the control of secretions, clearance of respiratory contaminants, protection of the upper airway, and equalization of pressure across the tympanic membrane through the eustachian tube.

The differential diagnosis and evaluation of dysphagia in children are reviewed here.


Dysphagia – Dysphagia is defined as any difficulty or abnormality of swallowing. Dysphagia is not a specific disease entity but is a symptom of other conditions and may be life-threatening.

Odynophagia – Odynophagia refers to pain on swallowing and may also be present in the dysphagic child.

Sialorrhea – Sialorrhea (drooling) may accompany dysphagia and often indicates oropharyngeal, upper airway, and/or esophageal infection or obstruction.


Subscribers log in here

To continue reading this article, you must log in with your personal, hospital, or group practice subscription. For more information or to purchase a personal subscription, click below on the option that best describes you:
Literature review current through: Sep 2016. | This topic last updated: Aug 29, 2016.
The content on the UpToDate website is not intended nor recommended as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your own physician or other qualified health care professional regarding any medical questions or conditions. The use of this website is governed by the UpToDate Terms of Use ©2016 UpToDate, Inc.
  1. Hudson S, Sampson C, Muntz HR, et al. Foreign body impaction as presentation of eosinophilic esophagitis. Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg 2013; 149:679.
  2. Benfer KA, Weir KA, Bell KL, et al. Oropharyngeal dysphagia and gross motor skills in children with cerebral palsy. Pediatrics 2013; 131:e1553.
  3. Brinster CJ, Singhal S, Lee L, et al. Evolving options in the management of esophageal perforation. Ann Thorac Surg 2004; 77:1475.
  4. Peng L, Quan X, Zongzheng J, et al. Videothoracoscopic drainage for esophageal perforation with mediastinitis in children. J Pediatr Surg 2006; 41:514.
  5. White RK, Morris DM. Diagnosis and management of esophageal perforations. Am Surg 1992; 58:112.
  6. Wright CD, Mathisen DJ, Wain JC, et al. Reinforced primary repair of thoracic esophageal perforation. Ann Thorac Surg 1995; 60:245.
  7. Geagea A, Cellier C. Scope of drug-induced, infectious and allergic esophageal injury. Curr Opin Gastroenterol 2008; 24:496.
  8. McCann LJ, Garay SM, Ryan MM, et al. Oropharyngeal dysphagia in juvenile dermatomyositis (JDM): an evaluation of videofluoroscopy swallow study (VFSS) changes in relation to clinical symptoms and objective muscle scores. Rheumatology (Oxford) 2007; 46:1363.
  9. Rudolph CD, Link DT. Feeding disorders in infants and children. Pediatr Clin North Am 2002; 49:97.
  10. Ramaswamy K, Jacobson K, Jevon G, Israel D. Esophageal Crohn disease in children: a clinical spectrum. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr 2003; 36:454.
  11. Gangopadhyay AN, Mohanty PK, Gopal SC, et al. Adenocarcinoma of the esophagus in an 8-year-old boy. J Pediatr Surg 1997; 32:1259.
  12. Federici S, Ceccarelli PL, Bernardi F, et al. Esophageal leiomyomatosis in children: report of a case and review of the literature. Eur J Pediatr Surg 1998; 8:358.
Topic Outline