Also known as a barium swallow, this is an x-ray examination of the
stomach, esophagus and small intestine. It is used to diagnose
hiatal hernia, ulcers, tumors, obstruction, or inflammation, and
when there are symptoms such as difficulty in swallowing,
regurgitation, burning or gnawing abdominal pain, diarrhea, weight
loss, or bleeding.
• You will be given barium contrast medium to drink, which coats the
upper gastrointestinal tract.
• The liquid is sweetened to be a "barium milk shake", but still has
a chalky texture.
• You will be positioned on a tilting x-ray table, which starts in a
vertical position and is then tilted at various angles to help
spread the barium to get different views on the fluoroscope.
• The examiner often presses on the abdomen to move the barium
• If the test is to include a small bowel exam, you will have to
wait several hours until the barium filters down into the intestine.
• Radiation exposure is higher than in other types of x-rays, but
still minimal unless repeat studies are required.
• Barium often causes constipation, and laxatives or enemas are
sometimes necessary for a day or two to clear out the intestine.
• Since barium is white, the stool will be very light until all the
barium is expelled
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