In the airways of those with cystic fibrosis (CF), the leading pathophysiological hypothesis is that an ion channel defect results in a relative decrease in airway surface liquid (ASL) volume, producing thick and sticky mucus that facilitates the establishment and progression of early fatal lung disease. This hypothesis predicts that any successful CF airway treatment for this fundamental channel defect should increase the ASL volume, but up until now there has been no method of measuring this volume that would be compatible with in vivo monitoring. In order to accurately monitor the volume of the ASL, we have developed a new x-ray phase contrast imaging method that utilizes a highly attenuating reference grid. In this study we used this imaging method to examine the effect of a current clinical CF treatment, aerosolized hypertonic saline, on ASL depth in ex vivo normal mouse tracheas, as the first step towards non-invasive in vivo ASL imaging. The ex vivo tracheas were treated with hypertonic saline, isotonic saline or no treatment using a nebuliser integrated within a small animal ventilator circuit. Those tracheas exposed to hypertonic saline showed a transient increase in the ASL depth, which continued for nine minutes post-treatment, before returning to baseline by twelve minutes. These findings are consistent with existing measurements on epithelial cell cultures, and therefore suggest promise for the future development of in vivo testing of treatments. Our grid-based imaging technique measures the ASL depth with micron resolution, and can directly observe the effect of treatments expected to increase ASL depth, prior to any changes in overall lung health. The ability to non-invasively observe micron changes in the airway surface, particularly if achieved in an in vivo setting, may have potential in pre-clinical research designed to bring new treatments for CF and other airway diseases to clinical trials.