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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.

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Aug 29, 2016.
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