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HealthInfo Canterbury

Videofluoroscopic swallow study for adults

A videofluoroscopic swallowing study (VFSS) is a radiology procedure used to look at your swallowing. It can also be called a modified barium swallow (MBS).

You can think of the study as an X-ray movie of your swallowing. It shows how the structures in your mouth and throat (pharynx) move, and how food and drink move from your mouth, through your throat and into your food pipe (oesophagus). The study is used to investigate your swallowing problems and guide how to manage and treat them.

The study is run by a speech-language therapist with help from radiation therapists and radiologists in a radiology suite. It can be done through the public system at either Christchurch Hospital or Burwood Hospital, or privately at St George's Hospital through the University of Canterbury Rose Centre for Stroke Recovery and Research.

Preparing for a videofluoroscopic swallow study

Be prepared to talk to the speech-language therapist about the foods and drinks you find most difficult to swallow. The speech-language therapist may ask you to bring some of these foods with you to your appointment.

Tell your speech-language therapist about any allergies, or dietary or cultural requirements that you have for food, fluids or mealtimes.

Apart from that, you don't need to do any specific preparation. You can eat and drink as normal, before and after the procedure. If you are tube-fed, you can also continue your tube-feeding as normal.

During a videofluoroscopic swallow study

The speech-language therapist will give you small amounts of different types of food and drink to swallow. These will be mixed with barium so that they can be seen on the X-ray. Barium is tasteless and safe to eat but it may feel chalky in your mouth. The speech-language therapist may also ask you to do different things while you swallow. They will record the study so they can analyse your swallowing patterns after the procedure.

You can sit or stand for the procedure and you can stay in your own wheelchair if necessary.

You can discuss any questions with your speech-language therapist or doctor before your examination.

It's OK to bring a family/whānau member, carer or support worker with you to the procedure. They will need to wear a lead apron to protect them from the radiation, and be strong enough to stand up while wearing it for the whole time.

A videofluoroscopic swallow study can take from15 to 45 minutes, but the time of exposure to radiation is usually only between one and five minutes.

After a videofluoroscopic swallow study

When it's necessary, the speech-language therapist will talk to you straight away after the procedure and give you some preliminary information and advice.

The speech-language therapist and radiologist will both write a report. They'll send copies to you and the relevant health professionals involved in your care. This report will include your swallowing diagnosis as well as recommendations.

The speech-language therapist may recommend:

Written by Speech-Language Therapy Department, Christchurch and Burwood Hospitals, Canterbury DHB. Adapted by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed October 2020.


Page reference: 417744

Review key: HISWD-121957