Path to Dysphagia Diagnosis
  • Carinda Stout, MS CCC/SLP

Modified Barium Swallow vs. Esophagram

A Modified Barium Swallow (MBS) study is often referred to as a Videofluoroscopic swallowing study (VFSS), helps identify why you may be having difficulty swallowing. This imaging exam uses a real time x-ray called fluoroscopy to help analyze swallowing through the mouth, throat, and esophagus. Images are recorded while you are seated and consume small amounts if food and liquid mixed with barium. The study is typically conducted by a speech-language pathologist and physician or radiologist and takes approximately 15-20 minutes. No preparation is necessary.

Helps analyze swallowing through the mouth, throat, and esophagus.

Some common reasons for an MBS:

  • Cough during or after eating or drinking

  • Painful swallowing

  • Food or pills sticking in the throat

  • Progressive neurological diseases


An Esophagram is also commonly known as a Barium Swallow Test. This x-ray test takes pictures of the esophagus after 1 to 2 cups of barium is swallowed lying down and standing up to outline and coat the walls of this small region. It provides a detailed view of the esophagus and how it is functioning. This study is typically performed by a radiologist and also takes 15-20 minutes. There is some preparation required prior to the test.


Some common indications for an Esophagram:

  • Sensation of food sticking below the collar bone

  • Possible esophageal stricture or dysmotility

  • Possible mass or questionable perforation

  • Test for reflux/ laryngopharyngeal reflux

  • Screen for esophageal cancer

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