Swallowing problem (dysphagia) diagnosis
The evaluation of dysphagia begins with a complete medical history and physical examination. When taking the medical history, physician will ask questions regarding the duration, onset, and severity of symptoms as well as the presence of associated symptoms or chronic medical conditions that can help determine the cause of the dysphagia.
Some specific diagnostic tests frequently are performed to evaluate the esophagus and its function:
- An esophagram or barium swallow is an X-ray imaging test used to visualize the structures of the esophagus. The patient swallows liquid barium while X-ray images are obtained. The barium fills and then coats the lining of the esophagus so that it can diagnose anatomical abnormalities such as tumors. It also allows the radiologist to evaluate the movement of food and liquid through the esophagus and to diagnose functional abnormalities such as achalasia.
- Videofluoroscopy or videofluoroscopic swallowing study (VFSS) is an alternative test to the barium swallow that uses video X-ray images of the swallowing process. It is better able to evaluate the more subtle muscular abnormalities that can affect swallowing than the barium swallow.