Modified Barium Swallow

General Information:              

  • Description: A video is taken as contrast is swallowed. The video can then be played back at a slower speed to detect minor abnormalities in the swallowing mechanism. An Otolaryngologist or Radiologist and speech therapist perform the test at an x-ray facility. The doctor then interprets the results. The test takes 1 hour to perform.
  • Discomfort – Minimal. The contrast is unpleasant to swallow to some.
  • Duration – About 30 minutes to 1 hour depending on findings.                  
  • Results – Within 1-2 days.                  
  • Risks of Procedure – Exposure to radiation, particularly during pregnancy.                  
  • Average Cost – $                  
  • Other Names – Video swallow or cookie swallow.

Indication for the Test

  • To examine the swallowing mechanism in persons who are having problems swallowing.


  • Nothing by mouth for several hours before the test.
  • You wear a hospital gown.
  • You are placed on an x-ray table.
  • A video monitor attached to an x-ray machine is used to take pictures and videos as you swallow various foods. 


  • While on the x-ray table, you swallow barium of varying consistencies (thin liquid, thick liquid, paste, and barium-coated cookie/marshmallow/pill).
  • By varying the amounts and consistency of the contrast material that is swallowed, the doctor is able to identify the cause of the swallowing problem.
  • With a speech pathologist present, techniques to aid in improving the swallowing problem can be identified.

After the Procedure

  • Patient is free to leave and resume normal activities.

Factors affecting results

  • Movement affects the quality of the images obtained.


  • The test can identify the cause of the swallowing problem and, in some cases, identify techniques to improve swallowing.


  • Detailed images of the damaged organs are not obtained.
  • There is a small amount of radiation exposure.
  • Some diseases that can cause swallowing problems can be missed if they occur in the mid or lower esophagus.
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