Barium Swallow Definition

Barium Swallow is a diagnostic imaging procedure to examine the structures of the upper gastrointestinal tract including the esophagusstomach, and duodenum (beginning of the small intestine), sometimes called an upper GI (gastrointestinal) series.

The gastroenterologist may request a barium swallow to help diagnose hiatal hernia, esophageal obstruction, esophageal spasm, stomach dysfunction, and peptic ulcer disease. Preparation for barium swallow typically is nothing to eat or drink for 8 to 12 hours, before the procedure.

The test consists of swallowing a preparation of barium, a high-contrast medium, during a series of X-rays (fluoroscopy). The barium lines the structures of the upper gastrointestinal tract, making them visible by X-ray. The barium preparation is about the consistency of a milkshake though chalky in texture.

The procedure takes 30 to 60 minutes, with the person placed in different positions to help move the barium through the upper gastrointestinal tract. Some people experience mild constipation after the procedure, and it is normal for the stools to be light-colored for several days after the procedure while the barium clears the body.


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