Feeding and Swallowing Clinic

Modified Barium Swallow Study

What is a Modified Barium Swallow Study?

During a Modified Barium Swallow Study (MBSS), moving x-rays are used to take pictures of a child's swallow. The child sits in a special support chair. He or she is given food items that are mixed with barium, a substance which outlines the structures inside the mouth and throat so they can be viewed by X-rays. The MBSS usually takes approximately 20 minutes, but the actual X-ray exposure time is only about 5 minutes.

What is the purpose of an MBSS?

Some children have trouble swallowing. They may push food back out of their mouths or they may gag and choke when they eat. An MBSS is done so that any problems with a child's swallowing can be identified. It also can help determine the food textures that can be safely given to a child who has trouble swallowing.

What types of food does a child eat during an MBSS?

Barium may be mixed with many types of food and may be used in liquid, powder, or paste form. It also can be heated or frozen. The types of food that are given to a child during an MBSS depends on his or her chewing and swallowing abilities. Liquids mixed with barium may be consumed by the child through a bottle or a cup. Barium mixed with applesauce or pudding may be given to the child by spoon. Chopped or chewy foods may also be used for the study if the child can handle them.

If your child is going to have an MBSS, you may be asked to bring in some foods from home. These should include foods that your child prefers to eat, as well as foods that may be a problem for your child to eat.

Will you be able to watch your child's MBSS?

Parents are encouraged to stay with their child during the MBSS. This helps to reassure and calm a child who may be scared of unfamiliar places and people.

As a parent, you may be asked to feed your child during the MBSS. The team of professionals who conduct the study will guide you as to how much food to give to the child. They also will let you know how often the food should be presented. If you do not feel comfortable doing the feeding, another team member will be glad to take over.

*If you have any questions about the Modified Barium Swallow Study, please contact your child's doctor. He or she can provide more specific information that relates directly to your child's examination.


Army Audiology and Speech Center: Walter Reed Army Medical Center. "Dysphagia." (1999). 3 August 1999.

Marquis, J. and Pressman, H. Dysphagia and the Child with Developmental Disabilities. Radiologic Assessment of Pediatric Swallowing.