This page explains about sialogram and what to expect when your child comes to Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) to have one.

What is a sialogram?

A sialogram is a scan to look at your child’s salivary glands, which are located inside the mouth, one in each cheek and one under the tongue. It uses contrast liquid, which shows up well on x-rays, injected into each gland.

Your child may need a sialogram if their salivary glands are painful, possibly because they are blocked or have developed stones or are infected.

Occasionally, children’s salivary glands have not developed properly leading to drooling and dribbling. A sialogram can investigate these problems and help doctors to plan treatment.

Are there any alternatives?

Various types of scan such as CT, ultrasound and X-rays can show the size and shape of your child’s salivary glands but not how they are working. The results of the scan are used to plan your child’s treatment.

When you receive your appointment letter

If you are unable to keep this appointment, please inform the department at least two weeks beforehand. Sometimes, we can offer the appointment to another child on the waiting list.

As so many children and young people need to use our services, we have had to introduce a policy where if a child cancels or does not attend two appointments in a row, we will close their referral and inform their GOSH consultant.

The day of the scan

Most sialograms are carried out while your child is awake. Please arrive at the Radiology department at the time stated in your child’s appointment letter.

Legally, we are obliged to ask any girls over the age of 12 whether there is any chance they might be pregnant. This is to protect babies in the womb from receiving unnecessary radiation.

We will also ask mothers or other female carers if they could be pregnant, especially if they are planning to come into the scanning room with their child. If you are pregnant, we suggest you bring another member of the family with you, to be with your child during the scan instead.

The scan

You will be able to stay with your child throughout the scan. Your child will need to wear a hospital gown for the scan as any metal on their everyday clothing, such as zips or buttons, will show up on the x-ray, giving a misleading result.

The doctor will ask your child to sit on the bed and usually drink a few drops of pure lemon juice to make their mouth water. Your child will then be asked to lie flat on their back, open their mouth very widely and lie very still.

The doctor will then put the tip of a thin metal probe just inside the opening of each salivary gland before injecting a small amount of contrast liquid. After the contrast liquid has been injected, a series of pictures will be taken while it flows through your child’s salivary glands. The whole procedure usually takes around 30 minutes.

After the scan

When enough pictures have been taken, the doctor will take the probes out of your child’s mouth and they will be able to get off the bed and get dressed. If they are not having any further tests or scans, you will be free to go home. The radiology doctor will send a report about the scan to your child’s doctor.

Are there any risks?

The contrast liquid will not interfere with any medicines your child is taking. While x-rays use radiation, we make every attempt to keep the dose as low as possible while still getting the best possible pictures to plan treatment.

Your child’s mouth may ache for the rest of the day, mainly because they have had to keep it wide open for the test. If your child’s salivary glands were occasionally painful before the test, they are likely to get a similar kind of pain for a few hours after the scan.

Compiled by:
The Radiology department in collaboration with the Child and Family Information Group.
Last review date:
October 2016