Adapting the modified barium swallow: modifications to improve safety in the setting of airborne respiratory illnesses like COVID-19

Abdom Radiol (NY). 2021 Jul;46(7):3058-3065. doi: 10.1007/s00261-021-03025-8. Epub 2021 Mar 27.


No guidance exists on how to safely perform modified barium swallows (MBS) in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic or other communicable airborne respiratory infections (C-ARI). MBS has the potential to become an aerosol generating procedure (AGP) as it may trigger a cough or necessitate suctioning which may result in transmission of C-ARI putting patients and health care workers at risk. Regulations and best practices from international and US governmental and commercial agencies were reviewed. This review led to the multidisciplinary development of best practices of the safety measures and structural requirements to avoid transmission of SARS-CoV-2 or other C-ARIs when performing MBS. Implementation of these best practices resulted in structural changes to the fluoroscopy suite and protocol workflows. This enabled patients with COVID-19 to undergo MBS while maintaining patient and staff safety including mitigation of potential risk of onward transmission of SARS-CoV-2 to other patients. With proper modifications, MBS can be safely performed on patients with C-ARI such as COVID-19 while maintaining patient and health care worker (HCW) safety.

Keywords: Airborne respiratory illnesses; COVID-19; Fluoroscopy; Modified barium swallow; SARS-CoV-2.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Barium
  • COVID-19*
  • Fluoroscopy
  • Humans
  • Pandemics*
  • SARS-CoV-2


  • Barium