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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Barium swallow Q&As

What is a barium swallow ?

A barium swallow is a way of taking x-ray pictures of your throat and gullet (oesophagus). Sometimes x-rays of your stomach may also be taken. This is called a barium meal.

You can have a barium swallow as an out-patient. The test is usually carried out in a hospital x-ray department and takes about 15 minutes.

Before the test your stomach should be as empty as possible. Generally you should not eat or drink for about six hours beforehand. If you usually take medicines, you may be asked not to on the day of the test but to bring them with you to the hospital.

You will be given a cup of barium to drink. This is a chalky white fluid. It is often fruit flavoured and is not unpleasant to drink. The barium coats the lining of your throat, gullet and stomach so that it shows up on x-rays.

After you have had the barium you will have a number of x-ray pictures taken. These may be taken while you are standing upright.

You can eat and drink normally once the test is completed. It usually takes a couple of days for the barium to pass out of your system. During this time your bowel motions may be white or paler than normal and may be more difficult to flush. Some people develop constipation after a barium swallow. Drinking plenty of fluids and eating fibre and fruit helps to prevent this.

The person who carries out the test, the radiographer or radiologist, will be able to tell you when you will get the results. Generally they are available within two weeks.

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