Welcome to our health education library. The information shared below is provided to you as an educational and informational source only and is not intended to replace a medical examination or consultation, or medical advice given to you by a physician or medical professional.

Modified Barium Swallow

Modified Barium Swallow

A modified barium swallow (also called a videofluoroscopic swallow study) is a test that checks your ability to swallow. It also helps plan treatment, if needed. During the test, a substance called barium is used. The barium coats the parts involved with swallowing (the tongue, mouth, throat, and esophagus) and makes them show up clearly on x-rays. The test is needed if you have problems swallowing and you're at risk of choking or aspiration (food or liquid going into the lungs). It is also needed if you have a feeding tube and the doctor wants to check if you can go back to eating by mouth.

Before the Test

  • Let the doctor know of any medications you're taking. This includes vitamins, herbs, and over-the-counter medications. Certain medications may need to be stopped for a time in the days before the test.

  • Stop eating and drinking 4 hours before the test.

  • Follow any other instructions given by your doctor.

Let the Technologist Know

For your safety, let the technologist know if you:

  • Are taking any medications.

  • Had recent x-rays or tests involving barium.

  • Had recent surgery.

  • Have other health problems, especially those affecting the lungs.

  • Have any allergies.

  • Are pregnant or may be pregnant.

During the Test

The test takes place in an x-ray room in a hospital. It's performed by a technologist trained in radiology. A speech pathologist or feeding specialist is also present. These are persons trained to help patients with swallowing or feeding problems. A radiologist may be present as well. This is a doctor trained to use x-rays to test and treat patients.

  • You'll likely be seated in a special chair that is next to an x-ray table. The x-ray table is set upright.

  • You're given tiny amounts of foods and liquids of different textures to swallow. This may include thin liquids (such as water) or thick liquids (such as milk). You may also be given soft foods (such as pudding). The foods and liquids contain a small amount of barium.

  • The speech pathologist or feeding specialist watches your swallowing. You're observed carefully for signs of problems as each food or liquid is swallowed. If problems do occur as you're swallowing, steps are quickly taken to treat these problems.

  • An x-ray video is also taken as each food or liquid is swallowed. The barium in the foods and liquids shows up clearly on the x-ray video.

After the Test

  • You may become constipated after the test. This is due to the barium. If you can drink liquids, drinking water may help to prevent this constipation.

  • Your stool will appear chalky white or light for 1 to 2 days. This is a sign of the barium passing from your system.

Call Your Doctor If:

  • You have severe constipation.

  • You do not have signs of the barium passing (white or light stools) within 24 hours.

Follow-Up

The x-ray video and notes from the test are studied by the healthcare providers that were present for your test. These results are then discussed with your doctor. Your doctor will meet with you to go over the results. You'll be advised about what foods or liquids are safe for you. In severe cases of swallowing disorder, it won't be possible for you to eat or drink safely. This means you'll need a feeding tube if you don't already have one. Your doctor can tell you more about this, if needed.

Risks and Possible Complications of a Modified Barium Swallow Include:

  • Aspiration

  • Radiation exposure from x-rays

  • Blockage (obstruction) of the bowel due to retained barium

  • Allergic reaction to the barium

For top-quality, up-to-date care for gastrointestinal problems, trust the board-certified, experienced GI specialists trusted by thousands of patients and their doctors for nearly 30 years. Call Gastroenterology Consultants at (281) 481-9400 or fill out our online Request an Appointment form to schedule your consultation with us.

Gastroenterology Consultants

Ellington

444 FM 1959, Suite A,
Houston, TX 77034
Direct Phone: 281-481-9400

St. John

2060 Space Park Drive, Suite 306
Nassau Bay, TX 77058
Direct Phone: 281-892-2460

Clear Lake

250 Blossom Street, Suite 210 Webster, TX 77598
Direct Phone: 281-316-1119

Pasadena

4211 Fairmont Parkway
Pasadena, TX 77504
Direct Phone: 832-456-8434

Pearland

15015 Kirby Dr. Ste.200A
Pearland, TX 77047
Direct Phone: 713-343-6360

League City

2555 S. Gulf Freeway Ste. 500
League City, TX 77573
Direct Phone: 281-481-9400

Gastroenterology Consultants is a leader in advanced, comprehensive gastrointestinal care. We specialize in up-to-date gastrointestinal care, which includes screening and treatment for colon cancer, heartburn and acid reflux, esophageal disorders and difficulty swallowing, peptic ulcers, H. pylori, gallstones and other gallbladder disorders, rectal bleeding and hemorrhoids, malabsorption and celiac disease, liver diseases - hepatitis C, hepatitis B, cirrhosis, fatty liver disease, hepatoma and liver cancer, abdominal pain, noncardiac chest pain, ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease, pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer, anemia, nausea and vomiting, gas and bloating and lactose intolerance

Gastroenterology Consultants also offers colonoscopy screening for colorectal cancer, EGD & capsule endoscopy small-bowel, endoscopic ultrasound, Bravo 48-hour pH monitoring, H. pylori breath testing, esophageal manometry and impedance testing, hemorrhoid band ligation, esophageal dilatation, advanced therapeutic ERCP, Biologic therapy, treatment of Barrett's esophagus, common bile duct stones and endoscopic mucosal resection.