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Modified Barium Swallow

Speech-language pathologists treat individuals who have difficulty swallowing (dysphagia) as a result of disease, injury or brain damage.  A swallowing assessment may involve a detailed interview to help describe a client’s symptoms and experiences while eating and drinking. 

The movement of a person’s mouth, tongue and throat may be assessed to rule out weakness or reduced coordination.  The speech-language pathologist may also observe the client eat or drink various foods to make behavioral observations.

In many cases, it may be necessary to do further evaluation to assess swallowing.  The procedure most often requested is a Modified Barium Swallow, a type of X-ray.  This test examines the structures involved in swallowing (mouth, throat, esophagus and larynx) by X-ray.  During a Modified Barium Swallow, the patient sits upright and eats and drinks small amounts of food and/or liquid that has been mixed with barium (a white, powdery substance that allows the speech-language pathologist to view the food and liquid being swallowed).

Fasting is NOT required prior to the Modified Barium Swallow.  The speech-language pathologist coordinates the scheduling of the Modified Barium Swallow procedure and will tailor the examination to each patient’s problem.  The results are available quickly, therefore recommendations or specific exercise therapy can be put in place in a timely manner.

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Updated May 22, 2012