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This is a diagram of the Esophagus, Trachea, and the Epiglottis

Modified Esophagus

A modified esophagus is an exam to look at the swallowing function and structures of the larynx such as the epiglottis. The epiglottis is a cartilaginous fold that covers the trachea when swallowing to direct food down the esophagus rather than allowing it to enter the trachea. If food or liquids are allowed to enter the trachea, they will end up in the lungs and can cause coughing when eating and pneumonia.

The Exam

The exam is relatively simple. The patient is seated on a chair and fluoro is used by the radiologist to watch as the patient drinks and eats different types of foods. A speech therapist is present who prepares and administers the foods such as thin liquids, thick liquids, pudding, bread, crackers and meat. These foods are mixed with barium to allow them to show up on the fluoro screen. The radiologist and speech therapist watch for aspiration (food going into the airway) or pooling of food in the valleculi or piriform sinuses. The entire exam is recorded on a video cassette and the speech therapist usually reviews the exam with the patient then recommends a course of action. The entire exam lasts about 30 minutes and the patient is released with the recommendation to drink lots of fluids to flush the barium out of the digestive system.

Procedure Summary

Patient Prep: No patient prep is needed for this exam.
Exam Time: Approximately 30 minutes
Post Exam Instructions: Drink lots of fluids, notify family physician if no bowel movement within three days.


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