Radiation exposure in modified barium swallow studies

Heather Shaw Bonilha*, Bonnie Martin-Harris, Ashli K. O'Rourke, Sameer V. Tipnis

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Purpose of review The modified barium swallow study (MBSS) is an X-ray examination of swallowing used to detect the presence and type impairment, aspiration risk, and to develop intervention plans. In this review, we will cover the use of ionizing radiation in MBSSs and review recent literature concerning radiation exposure and cancer risks to patients undergoing MBSSs. Lastly, we will discuss the clinical implications of these findings. Recent findings Recent literature confirms that the MBSS is a low-dose examination and that reducing pulse rate negatively impacts diagnostic accuracy. Importantly, cancer risks to adults undergoing MBSSs were also reported to be low. Summary An adult undergoing MBSS using a standardized, valid protocol, like the Modified Barium Swallow Impairment Profile (MBSImP), has low-radiation exposure and very low associated cancer risks. MBSSs should be used whenever relevant to adult patient care without undue concern regarding radiation exposure. Children also have low radiation exposure from MBSSs; however, cancer risks from that exposure remain unknown. Best practices in radiation safety must always be followed. Reducing pulse rates in the adult or pediatric population to reduce radiation exposure is not a valid strategy because of the resulting reduction in diagnostic accuracy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)371-375
Number of pages5
JournalCurrent Opinion in Otolaryngology and Head and Neck Surgery
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2020


  • Deglutition
  • Fluoroscopy
  • Modified barium swallow study
  • Radiation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Otorhinolaryngology


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