Modified Barium Swallow

A modified barium swallow is a test to evaluate swallowing and swallowing problems that can occur during eating and drinking. During this test, X-rays are used to directly view the parts of your body involved with normal chewing and swallowing. If food or liquid enters the wind pipe (aspirate) while eating or drinking, it will show up on the X-ray. The goal is to help the patient change specific chewing and swallowing behaviors. These changes can improve the safety and efficiency of eating and swallowing.


  • Allergies, especially to contrast materials.

  • Allergic reactions after eating chocolate, certain berries, or citrus fruit.

  • Any obstruction in the gastrointestinal tract.

  • Medications taken including herbs, eye drops, over-the-counter medications and creams.

  • Use of steroids (by mouth or creams).

  • Possible pregnancy, if applicable.

  • History of blood clots.

  • History of bleeding or blood problems.

  • Previous surgery.

  • Other health problems.


  • Allergic reaction. This can be caused by the flavoring added to some brands of barium.

  • Blockage in the digestive system. This is due to a rare chance that some barium could stay in your system.

  • Cancer from radiation exposure (rare). The benefit of an accurate diagnosis far outweighs the risk.


  • Your caregiver will provide specific instructions about taking or not taking regular prescription medicines on the day of the test.

  • You may be asked to remove some or all of your clothes.

  • You may be asked to wear a gown during the exam.

  • You may also be asked to remove jewelry, eye glasses, and any metal objects or clothing that might interfere with X-ray images.


During the procedure, you will eat and swallow foods that contain a white chalky liquid (barium). Barium shows up during X-ray and outlines the structures within the body it encounters.

  • In the X-ray room, you sit upright in a chair or you might stand.

  • You are given different foods and liquids to chew and swallow that is covered with or contains barium.

  • You may be asked to turn your head, sit back, hold your breath, cough, or take small bites during the test.


The barium may color your stools gray or white for 48 to 72 hours after the procedure. Sometimes the barium can cause temporary constipation.


  • Understand these instructions.

  • Will watch your condition.

  • Will get help right away if you are not doing well or get worse.