Modified Barium Swallow Studies

The Good Shepherd Modified Barium Swallow (MBS) study offers the latest technology to determine if your child has dysphagia, commonly referred to as a swallowing disorder. By combining the MBS study with the existing feeding therapy program, speech pathologists at Good Shepherd can both test and treat patients.

The Pediatric MBS study program is available on an outpatient basis on the 1st floor of the Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Hospital-Allentown, 850 S. Fifth St.

What are the signs/symptoms of a swallowing disorder?

The signs/symptoms of a swallowing disorder include coughing, choking, gagging, respiratory distress or turning red or blue during feeding. Frequent chest colds and congestion may also be a sign/symptom of a swallowing disorder.

Prior to the exam:

An MBS must be done on an empty stomach. This means your child cannot have anything to eat or drink by mouth or tube. The number of hours your child cannot eat depends on his or her age. The general times include:

  • Birth to 6 months: 3 hours
  • 7 months to 2 years: 4 hours
  • 3 years and older: 6 hours

Please bring various items from home to your appointment, including a plate, bowl, spoon, cup, sippy cup and bottle, along with a variety of foods and liquids your child is currently eating with success and other foods and liquids that present a challenge.

Your child should not wear any clothing with metal buttons, zippers or snaps near the neck.  These will show up on the X-ray and may interfere with the results of the study.

What to expect during the exam:

Upon entering the Modified Barium Swallow suite on the 1st floor of the Allentown Rehabilitation Hospital, your child will meet a speech pathologist and radiology technician. One parent must be present. Once the MBS begins, your child will consume various textures of foods and liquids. During this time, he or she will be exposed to a small amount of radiation, so that the speech pathologist can asses his or her ability to swallow. The video image allows the professionals at Good Shepherd to clearly see your child swallow food and liquid as it passes from the mouth into the esophagus. The entire process takes approximately 20 minutes.

What is barium sulfate?

Barium sulfate comes in both a white liquid and powder form for the MBS study. The liquid has the texture of a milk shake. Barium sulfate makes the upper digestive tract near the mouth and esophagus visible to a moving X-ray. It is not harmful when ingested in small quantities. However, it is important to inform the speech pathologist if your child has ever had a negative reaction to barium sulfate.

After the exam:

Children should slowly increase their fluid intake for the remainder of the day, as the barium sulfate may cause some mild constipation. In addition, your child’s first bowel movement may appear white or grayish. This is expected.

Evaluation and Treatment:

The MBS will assess your child’s ability to swallow foods and liquids safely. There is typically no wait time for verbal results, as they are shared with parents immediately after the study. A written report can take up to a few days. The speech pathologists may make changes to your child’s diet to improve the swallowing function. These changes might include the consistency, thickness or presentation of foods and liquids.

For more information, contact us, call 610-778-1097 or Request an Appointment.