Search Journal-type in search term and press enter
Social Media-Follow Southwest Journal of Pulmonary and Critical Care on Facebook and Twitter
« Medical Image of the Week: Mucous Plugs Forming Airway Casts | Main | December 2017 Imaging Case of the Month »

Medical Image of the Week: Barium Aspiration

Figure 1: Upright X-Ray of the chest showing dense opacifications in the bilateral lower lobes consistent with Barium Aspiration.


An 88-year old man was referred for video fluoroscopic swallow study (VFSS) for concerns of aspiration as the cause of his chronic cough. As part of the study, he was given barium sulfate nectar which he aspirated and developed respiratory distress and hypoxia requiring hospital admission. Chest X-ray obtained at that time is shown (Figure 1).

Although inert, acute inflammation and even death attributed to barium aspiration has been described (1,2). Severe respiratory complications tend to occur in patients with extensive comorbidities (2,3). Treatment is mostly supportive and severe cases may require invasive ventilatory support. Bronchoscopy and suction clearance may be attempted although the success is variable. Recovery is usually complete although fibrosis is a known complication (4).

Bhupinder Natt, MD

Division of Pulmonary, Allergy, Critical Care and Sleep

Banner-University Medical Center

Tucson, AZ USA


  1. Kaira K, Takise A, Goto T, Horie T, Mori M. Barium sulphate aspiration. Lancet 2004;364(9452):2220. [CrossRef] [PubMed]
  2. Gray C, Sivaloganathan S, Simpkins KC. Aspiration of high density barium contrast medium causing acute pulmonary inflammation- report of two fatal cases in elderly women with disordered swallowing. Clinic Radiol. 1989;40(4):397-400. [CrossRef] [PubMed]
  3. Fruchter O, Dragu R. Images in Clinical Medicine. A deadly examination. N Engl J Med. 2003;348(11):1016. [CrossRef] [PubMed]
  4. Voloudaki A, Ergazakis N, Gourtsoyiannis N. Late changes in barium sulfate aspiration. HRCT Features. Eur Radiol. 2003;13(9):2226-9. [CrossRef] [PubMed]

Cite as: Natt B. Medical image of the week: barium aspiration. Southwest J Pulm Crit Care. 2017;15(6): . doi: PDF 

Reader Comments

There are no comments for this journal entry. To create a new comment, use the form below.

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>