Is A Modified Barium Swallow Test The Same As An Esophagram?

When a doctor suspects that there is a problem with your esophageal function they may need to perform a test to get a closer look. In order to do so, there are two tests that are commonly used, which include an esophagram and a modified barium swallow test.  The doctor will recommend either test depending on the patient and the symptoms indicated. Below, we will highlight the main differences and similarities between getting an esophagram and a modified barium swallow test

What is an esophagram?

An esophagram is also commonly known as a barium swallow test. This x-ray test takes pictures of the esophagus after barium is swallowed to outline and coat the walls of this small region. It provides a detailed view of the esophagus showing doctors how well the body part is functioning.

What is a modified barium swallow test?

A modified barium swallow test (MBS) is often referred to as a videofluoroscopic swallowing study (VFSS). The imaging exam uses a real time x-ray called fluoroscopy to help analyze swallowing through the mouth, throat, and upper esophageal areas. This helps doctors to identify why you may be having trouble swallowing. 

Esophagram vs. Modified Barium Swallow Test

Why Might A Doctor Recommend This Procedure?

Common Reasons for A Modified Barium Swallow Test:

  • Painful swallowing problems with the throat
  • Experiencing oral and pharyngeal dysphagia
  • Food sticking in the oropharynx or below the collar bone
  • Possible hiatal hernia
  • Laryngeal abnormalities
  • Progressive neurological diseases

Common Reasons for An Esophagram:

  • Painful swallowing problems with the esophagus
  • Possible esophageal stricture or dysmotility
  • Questionable perforation
  • Possible mass
  • Test for reflux/ laryngopharyngeal reflux
  • Screen for esophageal cancer

What is the procedure process?

Modified Barium Swallow Test

  • Images are taken of the mouth and throat.
  • Done while people sit and eat or drink small amounts of food and liquid mixed with barium.
  • Performed by a speech-language pathologist or occupational therapist with a radiology technologist or radiologist. 
  • Wear a pelvic apron to prevent radiation exposure. 
  • Asked to move into different positions. 
  • Takes 15 to 20 minutes


  • Pictures are taken of the esophagus and throat.
  • Done while people swallow 1 to 2 cups of barium liquids lying down and standing up.
  • Performed by a radiologist.
  • Takes 15 to 20 minutes

What are the risk factors?

Modified Barium Swallow Test

  • Radiation exposure
  • Possibility of food or liquid obstructing the airway.
  • Constipation


  • Radiation exposure
  • Possibility of barium getting in your airway 
  • Constipation

Now that we’ve explained the distinctions between a modified barium swallow test and an esophagram, it is clear that these two tests are similar but used in different ways. If you are in need of an esophagram or modified barium swallow test in Manhattan, don’t hesitate to contact our offices to schedule an appointment

2021-04-02T15:24:30+00:00April 2nd, 2021|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , |Comments Off on Is A Modified Barium Swallow Test The Same As An Esophagram?