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Swallowing evaluation

During a swallowing test with a speech-language pathologist, you may have tried different foods and liquids. The speech-language pathologist may have checked how well you can move the muscles of your mouth and how clearly you talk. Sometimes the speech-language pathologist needs even more information about how you swallow. You may need another swallowing test—this time in the radiology, or x-ray, department. There are different names for this test, including:

  • Videofluoroscopic swallowing study, or videofluoroscopy (VFSS).    
  • Modified barium swallow (MBS).    
  • Cookie swallow.

Why have a VFSS?

When you have a swallowing test in the office or in your hospital room, the speech-language pathologist can't see what is happening inside your mouth and throat. The VFSS lets them see:

  • If food is going into your airway instead of your stomach, called aspiration.    
  • Which parts of your mouth and throat may not be working well.    
  • What kinds of food are safest for you to swallow.    
  • If certain positions or strategies help you swallow better.

How is the VFSS done?

This study is done in the radiology department. You will meet the speech-language pathologist there. There will also be a doctor there, called a radiologist. A radiology technician will be there to help you get ready and set up the equipment.

You will sit or stand next to an x-ray machine. The speech-language pathologist will give you different foods and drinks mixed with barium. The barium makes the food and liquid show up on the x-ray. Barium is not harmful and won't stay in your body for too long. The x-ray machine is only turned on while you swallow so you don't get too much radiation. The speech-language pathologist will ask you to do different things during the test. You may try soft foods and hard foods, and thin liquids and thick liquids. You may take small amounts and large amounts. You may be asked to move your head in different positions. You may also try things like swallowing hard. The test may be recorded so it can be watched again later.

What happens after the test?

Your speech-language pathologist and doctor will talk about what they saw during the study. You and your family will be told the results. The speech-language pathologist may show you the video of the test so you can see what happens yourself. Your speech-language pathologist will use the test results to decide what treatment will help your swallowing. You and the speech-language pathologist will discuss what foods and liquids are safest, and how to eat them. You may start swallowing therapy soon after the study.

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Bay Area Medical Center
3003 University Drive
Marinette, WI 54143