X-ray Esophagus - Modified Swallowing Study

This X-ray creates detailed images of the esophagus, also known as the food pipe. The images are taken as you swallow food mixed with barium.

This X-ray creates detailed images of the esophagus, also known as the food pipe. The images are taken as you swallow food mixed with barium.

An X-ray of the esophagus, or “barium swallow”, creates several detailed images of:

    The pharynx, a space in the back of the throat that connects the nose and mouth to the esophagus.The esophagus is a muscular tube that connects the pharynx to the stomach. It is often called the food pipe.

The images are taken as you swallow food or liquid that has been mixed with a dye called barium.

With a “modified barium swallow”, a video is taken of the food or liquid as it goes down the esophagus into the stomach.

  • The test allows a healthcare provider to check on the many functions involved in chewing and swallowing.
  • He or she can also see if food is going into the trachea (wind pipe) when swallowed. When that happens, it is called aspiration.

Your health care provider may order a modified barium swallow to help determine the cause of:

  • Upper abdominal pain
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Vomiting Blood

Tell the technician if you are, or could be, pregnant. The exposure from a single X-ray has not been associated with harmful effects to an unborn baby, but precautions should be taken.

  • In some cases, other imaging studies may be appropriate (such as an ultrasound or MRI).
  • The technician may ask you to move into other positions, so he or she can take different images.
  • Otherwise, you will need to stay still during the test, so the technician can take a clear image.

There may be times when your healthcare provider decides that directly looking at the esophagus will provide more information than an x-ray.

  • In that case, he or she may suggest that you have a procedure called an esophagoscopy or upper GI endoscopy.
  • If your healthcare provider suggests this test, ask why they prefer it over an x-ray of the esophagus.

Prior to the procedure, tell your healthcare provider about any medications you are taking (including over-the-counter medications and supplements). Ask about specific instructions you should follow before the procedure. These may include:

  • Medications you should not take before the procedure
  • Regular medications you should take on the day of your procedure
  • How many hours you should stop eating and drinking before the procedure

Your healthcare provider may give you suggestions on ways you can prevent constipation after the use of barium. These can include fluids and a mild laxative.

The costs for this test include the charge for the test (facility charge) and physician charges (for performing or interpreting the test). You may get separate bills from the facility and the physician's office.

What should I ask my health care provider before having this test?

  • Is there any special preparation for the test? (If so, get clear steps to follow.)
  • What is the reason for this particular test? Are the test results likely to change my treatment plan? If not, why do I need the test?
  • What are the possible side effects?
  • What are the possible risks/complications?
  • How will I feel after the procedure? Do I need to take a laxative after the test?
  • What other procedures may be alternatives to an x-ray of the esophagus? What are the advantages and disadvantages of each procedure?

After your barium swallow, your healthcare provider should provide a description of any problems found during the procedure and what symptoms you should report. You should also understand all home care instructions (including medications and side effects) and follow-up plans.

Source UHC.com

Also known as:

X-ray Esophagus - Modified Swallowing Study
Swallowing Study
Modified Swallowing Study
Esophagus X-ray
Esophagus Xray

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