Fluoroscopy - Modified Barium Swallow (MBS)

What is a modified barium swallow?

A modified barium swallow is the fluoroscopic evaluation of the proximal esophagus, specifically the anatomy involved in the swallowing mechanism, by using a contrast material called barium of various consistencies.

What are some common uses of the procedure?

A modified barium swallow is performed to evaluate the swallowing function for patients who complain of dysphagia, or difficulty swallowing.  These patients often feel as if things go down the wrong way, causing coughing or even pneumonia.  Also, patients who have been diagnosed with cancers of the mouth or throat, as well as patients who have suffered a stroke, are often evaluated with a modified barium swallow.

How should I prepare for the procedure?

No special preparation is necessary for a modified barium swallow.   Food and fluid intake do not need to be restricted.

Before the procedure begins, you will be asked to remove jewelry, such as a necklace or earrings, that may show up on the images.

Women should always inform their physician or technologist if there is any possibility that they may be pregnant.

What does the equipment look like?

You will be positioned standing behind a box-like structure containing the x-ray tube and fluoroscopic equipment that will send the images to a screen in the exam room.

How does the procedure work?

The radiologist and a speech/language pathologist will monitor the passage of different consistencies of barium as you swallow with a fluoroscope, a device that projects radiographic images in real time onto a screen in the exam room.

How is the procedure performed?

You will be positioned, usually standing, next to the fluoroscopic equipment.  The speech/language pathologist will give you several different consistencies of barium to swallow.  Each consistency will be evaluated.  After the exam is complete, the speech/language pathologist will discuss the results with you to inform you of any necessary changes to your diet.

The exam is usually completed within 10-15 minutes.

What will I experience during the procedure?

The barium is flavored and is well tolerated by most patients.

Who interprets the results and how do I get them?

The speech/language pathologist will discuss the results with you immediately after your exam is completed.

A radiologist, as well as the speech/language pathologist, will interpret the exam, and a signed report will be sent to your physician who will discuss the results with you.