Barium Meal & Swallow

Your doctor has referred you for a barium meal & swallow. This information is to help you with questions you may have.

Why have a Barium meal/swallow?

The barium swallow is a test to demonstrate the oesophagus (tube from mouth to stomach). The barium meal shows up the stomach and the first part of the duodenum (the first part of the intestine past the stomach).

Your Doctor may have suggested this test for several reasons: difficulty or pain in swallowing; you may be troubled by indigestion or acid reflux; or if it is suspected you have an ulcer or blockage in your stomach.

Preparing for the test

For the barium to adequately coat the lining of the stomach, the stomach needs to be empty. For this reason, you will be asked not to eat or drink for 6 hours before the examination. Please do not smoke or chew gum on the morning of the examinations, as this may increase the amount of saliva in your stomach.

The test usually takes between 20 and 30 minutes. You will be asked to undress to underpants and singlet. An x-ray gown will be given to you to wear.

Female patients - please let us know prior to this test if you are, or think you may be pregnant.

Who does the test?

Radiologist (x-ray doctor) and a Radiographer (x-ray technician) will be in the room with you. They will explain the procedure as you go, but don't hesitate to ask them if you do not understand.

What is barium?

Barium is a chalky substance that can be suspended in water and is visible on X-rays. It is very safe, but you should be aware that it may cause mild constipation. Drinking water and eating a fibre-rich diet over the next few days may assist if this occurs.

As the oesophagus, stomach and duodenum are soft tissue structures, they are not usually seen on a plain X-ray. By using barium to coat the inner lining of these areas, the Radiologist can see them clearly on the X-ray screen; and can watch the way the organs function during this study.

What does the test involve?

The Radiologist will ask you to drink some barium mixed in water from a cup, it tastes chalky, but should not cause you any problems, while he/she takes images using the X-ray. You will be x-rayed standing and lying down. The images are seen on a TV monitor, and the Radiologist will select some to print on CD. You may be given an effervescent gas-producing mixture, which gently inflates the stomach so we can see the lining more clearly.

The Radiologist may also give you a small injection in your arm during the examination. This injection temporarily stops the stomach peristalsis (muscle movement) so we can take better X-rays. Occasionally the injection causes temporary blurred vision - this is for a few minutes, if at all. If you do feel your vision is blurred, please wait until your eyes are clear before you drive your car. If you wish to stay at Hamilton Radiology until you feel your sight is clear, please do so.

After the Radiologist has seen your X-rays and the test is completed, you can eat or drink normally.

After the examination

The Radiologist will review the images and provide a written report to your referring doctor.

Please settle your account on the day of the examination.

Please contact Hamilton Radiology for an appointment on 07-839 4909 or 0800 HAMRAD (0800 426723)

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