A video fluoroscopic swallowing exam (VFSE), also sometimes called a modified barium swallow exam (MBS), or swallow study, is a radiologic examination of swallowing function that uses a special movie-type x-ray called fluoroscopy. The patient is observed swallowing various types of substances that can be seen by fluoroscopy (usually liquid barium and/or foods coated with barium) in order to evaluate his or her ability to swallow safely and effectively. Patients are often observed swallowing various consistencies and textures, ranging from thin barium to barium-coated cookies. This exam is often performed with a speech-language pathologist present.
An x-ray (radiograph) is a noninvasive medical test that helps physicians diagnose and treat medical conditions. Imaging with x-rays involves exposing a part of the body to a small dose of ionizing radiation to produce pictures of the inside of the body. X-rays are the oldest and most frequently used form of medical imaging.
Fluoroscopy allows imaging of anatomical structures in real-time and allows the interpreting physician to observe structure and limited function.
A VFSE may be performed as an independent test to look at the motion of the throat during swallowing, or together with an esophagram, also called a barium swallow exam, which evaluates the structure and function of the esophagus to the level of the stomach.