How Does the Modified Barium Swallow Test Diagnose a Swallowing Difficulty?

If your physician or speech pathologist has recommended a Modified Barium Swallow Test to help determine if you have a swallowing disorder, you may be wondering: How exactly does it work?

The Modified Barium Swallowing Test

Barium sulfate is a metallic compound that shows up on x-rays, like bone and metal. While it is toxic to humans, it’s an insoluble salt, which means it does not dissolve in the body making it safe to use. Barium sulfate coats the lining of the esophagus and stomach, allowing us to see abnormalities in the breathing tract on x-ray imaging.

When barium sulfate is administered, we look at periods of aspiration during the swallowing process to determine possible swallowing disorders.

Aspiration is the term used to describe the inhalation of small particles of food or liquid into the lungs during the swallowing process. It’s not the same as choking because these tiny particles are not blocking the airway completely, however chronic aspiration could lead to complications such as shortness of breath, infection in the lungs, and pneumonia (specifically, aspiration pneumonia).

Some people may experience some side effects of ingesting barium sulfate, such as stomach cramps or nausea but for most patients, they can return to regular eating after about 6 hours post procedure.

At TwinCity Medical Mobile, we travel anywhere in the Piedmont area of North Carolina to administer the Modified Barium Swallow Test in our state-of-the-art medical van.  We pride ourselves in providing convenient service and diagnostic reporting that your physician or speech pathologist can use to determine your best treatment plan.