Barium Meal & Swallow

Barium Meal & Swallow


Barium Swallow and Meal

Why have a Barium Swallow & Meal?

The barium swallow and meal is a test to demonstrate the gullet ( the region from mouth to stomach), the stomach and the duodenum (the first part of the small intestine).

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. You will be asked not to eat or drink for 6 hours before the examination. 

The test usually takes between 20 and 30 minutes. You will be asked to undress to underpants. 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.

There is a consent form for this examination outlining the preparation, procedure, possible complications and aftercare. You will be asked to read through this, asked questions to ensure you are happy to continue with the procedure and lastly to sign the consent form.

Who does the test?

Radiologist (x-ray doctor) and a Medical Imaging Technologist will be in the room with you. They will explain the procedure prior and also as you go, but don't hesitate to ask them if you do not understand or have questions at any stage.

What is barium?

Barium is a white, dense, chalky substance that can be suspended in water and is visible on X-rays. You will drink a small quantity (half a cup) of barium during this examination. 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 drinking the barium this coats 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. 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 into a vein in your arm during the examination. This injection temporarily stops the stomach peristalsis (muscle movement) so we can take better x-rays. The injection also causes temporary blurred vision for approximately 20 minutes. If you do feel your vision is blurred, please wait until your eyes are clear before you drive your car.

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.

The barium can have a constipating effect, you must increase your fluid intake for three to four days to reduce the chance of constipation.

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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Postal Address: P O Box 262, Hamilton
Street Address: Gate 2, 11 Thackeray Street, Hamilton
Phone: (07) 839 4909
Free Phone: 0800 426 723
Fax: (07) 839 5780

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