Modified Barium Swallow Study (MBSS)

Voice and Swallow Clinic, UW Hospital

(608) 263-6190


Pediatric Voice and Swallow Clinic, American Family Children's Hospital
(608) 265-7760


Voice Clinic, 1 S. Park

(608) 287-2500

While a Clinical Swallowing Examination is usually the first step in diagnosing a swallowing disorder, UW Health speech-language pathologists sometimes seek additional information in order to provide an accurate diagnosis. A modified barium swallow study is the next step in providing this information.
The modified barium swallow study (MBSS)  is similar to a clinical swallowing examination in that the patient is presented with various food items and observed during swallowing. Unlike the clinical swallowing examination, patients are seated in front of a fluoroscopy, or X-ray, machine operated by a radiologist.
Foods are coated with barium to allow for viewing under the fluroscopy machine. The patient then swallows the food or liquid, and medical staff look for problems during the oral and esophageal phases of swallowing (see Stages of Swallowing).
A relatively short examination, a modified barium swallow study does not hurt patients but provides invaluable information for medical staff. It does include exposure to radiation, and therefore, may not be suitable for patients who are pregnant.