My Experience with a Modified Barium Swallow
Last updated: November 2023
I’ve had chewing and swallowing issues on and off for years. I was prescribed a modified barium swallow study (MBSS) so the doctors could figure out why I was choking on food and drink. As a matter of fact, by the time I had the test, it also helped back up a diagnosis of seronegative myasthenia gravis. The speech pathologist diagnosed my swallowing issues as being consistent with a diagnosis of myasthenia gravis (MG).
How the MBSS was performed
But I'm going to back up just a little bit because I'm sure not everyone knows what a modified barium swallow is (or at least this is how mine was done). I went into the hospital bright and early to the X-ray room and I met with a nurse, the speech pathologist, and an X-Ray technician all at the same time.
The speech pathologist had breakfast ready for me. There was some coffee, juice, milk, eggs, sausage, applesauce, and toast. Lots of different textures and temperatures. She fed me one bite or sip at a time. Each bite and sip had a small amount of barium in it so the X-ray technician could actually see (with X-ray) as food and drink moved around in my mouth and went down my throat.
The speech pathologist could watch how I moved my mouth while chewing and see when I was having trouble swallowing. She seemed to watch my whole demeanor and what my body was doing during that time. And the nurse was there to support all of us - she was actually doing a lot.
After the test
They actually have X-ray documentation of where the swallowing issues were happening in my throat at that time, along with verbal documentation of what the speech pathologist was witnessing. Today, I notice my swallowing issues still happen in those same areas of my throat to a certain extent.
After the test, the speech pathologist went over all the different things to help make swallowing easier. This included sitting up straight, not talking while trying to eat, tucking your chin to help swallow, watching the consistency of food and drink (not too thick or too thin), and not eating or drinking too many different textures or temperatures.
I have been dealing with swallowing issues for years
The speech pathologist kinda got giggly because she would start explaining another tip to make swallowing easier, and I would say, "Oh, yeah!" and would tell her the next thing she was about to talk about. I've been dealing with swallowing issues on and off for nearly 40 years and I've had to figure it out for myself. Good thing I pay attention to myself! And I know how to research and I know how to read.
She really liked when I shared my idea of using cool whip in my cereal to add thickness and create cohesion between the cereal and the milk. She said she was actually going to suggest that to some of her other clients and that it was a wonderful idea!
More trouble eating and drinking
Personally, I don't have a problem putting my food in the blender and making it into a puree like baby food. I've actually found that some food is better pureed. But I have gotten to the point that even with these strategies, I'm still having trouble swallowing. I've even avoided eating and have lost weight because of it.
Up until now, I had never experienced some of these swallowing issues while trying to eat and drink. Good thing I will see my doctor soon. My husband is also going with me to tell the doctor what he has been seeing with my chewing, swallowing, and choking.
How often do you experience MG exacerbations/flares?