Open a PDF version to print this topic

HealthInfo Waitaha Canterbury

Videofluoroscopic swallowing study for adults

Rangahau tirohanga ā-horomi ki ngā pakeke

A videofluoroscopic swallowing study (VFSS) is used to look at your swallowing. It is also 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. It also shows how food and drink move through your mouth, throat and food pipe (oesophagus). The study is used to investigate your swallowing problems and guide how to manage and treat them.

A speech-language therapist runs the study with help from medical imaging technologists and radiologists. The study can be done through the public system. This is at Christchurch Hospital or Burwood Hospital. It can also be done privately at St George's Hospital. This is through the University of Canterbury Rose Centre for Stroke Recovery and Research.

Preparing for a videofluoroscopic swallowing study

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

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

Apart from that, you do not 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 swallowing study

You can discuss any questions you have before your examination.

You will be given small amounts of different types of food and drink to swallow. These will be mixed with barium so 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 ask you to do different things while you swallow. They will record the study. This is 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.

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

A videofluoroscopic swallowing study can take from 15 to 45 minutes. Your exposure to radiation is usually only between 1 and 5 minutes.

After a videofluoroscopic swallowing study

The speech-language therapist may give you some preliminary information and advice. They will also write a report. They will send copies to you and the relevant health professionals involved in your care. The report will include your swallowing diagnosis as well as recommendations.

The speech-language therapist may recommend:

Written by speech-language therapists, Te Whatu Ora – Health New Zealand Waitaha Canterbury. Adapted by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed July 2023.


Page reference: 417744

Review key: HISWD-121957