Modified Barium Swallow Studies (MBSS)

A modified barium swallow study (also referred to as an “MBSS”) is a test to evaluate how a child is swallowing foods and liquids. An X-ray “movie” called a fluoroscopy is made of the child’s mouth and throat while they eat and drink. Learn more about fluoroscopy.

How do I prepare for the MBSS?

The modified barium swallow study will take place in the CHOC Radiology Department and patients are provided with any specific instruction regarding the study when the appointment is made. Typically, it is recommended that children do not eat or drink (by mouth or with a feeding tube) two to three hours before the appointment so that they are hungry enough to accept food and liquid during the study. Caregivers should bring the following to the study:

  • Cups, dishes and utensils the child uses at home.
  • A small variety of the different foods with different textures the child eats at home. Examples include: purees (yogurt, applesauce, pudding), meltable solids (crackers, cookies) and other table foods that the child prefers and is readily eating at home. New foods the child does not normally eat should not be brought to the study.

What will happen during the MBSS?

The MBSS is attended by a radiologist, several radiology technicians and the child’s feeding therapist. The feeding therapist works with the child and caregiver during the entire study. The study begins with the therapist taking a detailed history about the child’s feeding development and any concerns the family has in regards to child’s swallowing skills. The child is seated next to the fluoroscopy machine and therapist gives the child several consistencies of liquid and foods to sample. Young children may be fed by their caregiver as they are fed at home. All the liquid and food is dyed with a small amount of a white powder called barium. The barium allows the therapist to view the food or liquid on the X-ray as the child is swallowing. The barium is not harmful to the child.

Will I be able to be with my child during the MBSS?

One adult is allowed to be present in the room during the MBSS. (Pregnant women cannot be in the imaging room with the child.) Other children (siblings) are not allowed in the room during the evaluation. If other children will be coming to the appointment, please also bring another adult to supervise the children in Radiology Department lobby during the exam. If this is not possible to bring another adult, the therapist or a radiology technician can feed the child so the caregiver can wait in the lobby with the other child or children.