Positive findings on barium swallow in patients presenting with a “sensation of a lump in the throat”
Serious lesions presenting as globus syndrome appear to be extremely rare, but many clinicians routinely request barium swallow to exclude these. No data yet exist on the diagnostic yield of contrast radiography. We reviewed 2854 barium swallows from one department over 7 years. The false-positive rate (37%) depended on presenting symptoms and differed between radiology departments, suggesting substantial subjectivity. No serious radiological abnormalities occurred in the estimated 2011 patients with globus syndrome. The 95% confidence interval for the likelihood of finding a significant abnormality on routine barium swallow in a patient with globus symptoms is 0-0.00145. The 2854 barium swallows cost an estimated pounds sterling 685,000 and 0.22-0.48 deaths. As the risk of missing a serious lesion in a patient with globus is very unlikely to exceed one in 700, we support the opinion that barium swallow should be reserved for those with risk factors or atypical features.