Barium Swallow

What Is Barium Swallow Test?

A Barium swallow is a diagnostic test commonly used to visualize the anatomy of the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum (the first part of the small intestine). It entails the ingestion of a beverage containing barium, which coats the organs and allows them to be seen more clearly on X-ray or fluoroscopic imaging.

Preparation for Barium Swallow

Patients should fast for 6-8 hours before the procedure and inform the doctor if they are taking any medications, including antacids. Arrangements for transportation to and from the imaging facility also should be made before the procedure.

Procedure For Barium Swallow

The procedure is performed on an outpatient basis. The patient is usually asked to sit in a chair in order to swallow the barium drink. The contrast content for the drink will depend on the physician’s request and the patient’s needs. The imaging will take up to 20 minutes during which time the patient may be asked to move to different positions or to drink further barium.

Types Of Barium Swallow

The barium swallow can be administered in several forms:
  • Upper GI Series: A series of X-ray imaging of the upper gastrointestinal tract.
  • Barium Meal: It is an X-ray imaging technique used to detect abnormal growths, ulcers or tumors in the stomach and duodenum.
  • Barium Swallow with Reflux Study: A combination of the barium swallow with a manometry study, which helps to evaluate esophageal motility function in order to diagnose GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease).

Risks of Barium Swallow

There are minimal risks associated with the swallow of barium. Patients may experience nausea, minor chest and stomach pain, or an irregular heartbeat. Constipation is also a common side-effect. More serious adverse events may include aspiration of the barium solution or an allergic reaction to the contrast agent.

Why We Do Barium Swallow?

A Barium swallow test is prescribed if a physician suspects or wishes to confirm any number of abnormalities relating to the esophagus, stomach and duodenum. It can help to identify tumors, ulcers, obstruction, inflammation, and certain deformities of these organs.

When Is Barium Swallow Performed?

A Barium swallow is typically recommended when a patient is showing symptoms of dysphagia (difficulty swallowing), GERD, abdominal pain or if there is concern about potential blockage along the upper gastrointestinal tract. Additionally, a Barium swallow may be prescribed as a follow-up to an X-ray, endoscopy or CT scan to ascertain more information about a particular organ.