Modified Barium Swallow

Modified Barium Swallow (MBS) is a fluoroscopic procedure designed to determine whether food or liquid is entering a person’s lungs, also known as aspiration. It permits the medical team to observe the coordination of anatomical structures in the mouth and throat, as they are actively functioning when chewing, drinking and swallowing. It also identifies the reason for aspiration.

Who is part of the MBS care team?

A speech pathologist administers materials (thin to thick liquid consistencies of Barium and solids as indicated) as the patient is seated upright in the lateral and anterior-posterior positions. A radiologist and radiology technician perform the fluoroscopy (a type of X-ray) to visualize the swallowing process.

What are frequent misconceptions about MBS?

Modified Barium Swallow (MBS) is frequently confused with a Barium Swallow. MBS is an analysis of swallowing through three phases: oral (mouth), pharyngeal (throat) and upper esophagus. A Barium Swallow, on the other hand, focuses on the propulsion of liquid through the esophagus and into the stomach. Differences between these procedures include:

  • MBS: you may eat before your test. Barium Swallow: nothing by mouth for 12 hours prior to test.
  • MBS: you are seated upright or standing. Barium Swallow: you may be lying down on table.
  • MBS: oral, pharyngeal, upper esophagus. Barium Swallow: transit from mouth to stomach.
  • MBS: uses various foods and liquids. Barium Swallow: uses thin liquid Barium.

What are the benefits of MBS?

There are many benefits from MBS. It enables the speech pathologist and the physician to identify more clearly the reason or etiology of dysphagia, rule out aspiration and make decisions regarding management of the patient’s swallowing disorder. The speech pathologist needs a specific etiology identified before swallowing treatment can be initiated. A treatment plan is developed for each patient specific to individual needs.

For more information about MBS or speech language pathology, please call the Rehabilitation Services Department at UM BWMC at 410-787-4433.