Barium Swallow Test

Barium swallow test

is a procedure used to detect any abnormalities in the stomach or the esophagus. People suffering from abdominal pain, those having problems with swallowing, suffering from unexplained weight loss and those who vomit blood are usually tested using this diagnostic procedure.

Barium Swallow Test:

As part of the test, a mixture of barium sulphate has to be consumed. Barium sulphate is a metallic compound that is easily visible when X-rays are used. After drinking the solution, the path in which the barium sulphate solution travels can be assessed and any abnormalities in the digestive system can be identified.

Problems that Can be Identified:

The following problems and abnormalities can be identified using the barium sulphate solution –

  • swallowing disorders
  • problems with the esophagus (like irritation or narrowing)
  • ulcers
  • tumors
  • precancerous polyps
  • Hiatal hernia (in this disorder, a portion of the stomach protrudes into the chest causing gastrointestinal refluxes, swallowing problems, heartburn and chest pain)

Complications or Risks:

Although a safe procedure, a few people can develop the following complications –

  • constipation
  • allergic reactions due to the barium sulphate solution
  • aspiration (presence of barium in the wind pipe)

Before the Test:

The following diet measures should be followed before taking the barium test –

  • one should have a diet which contains low fiber for 2-3 days prior to the test
  • no eating or smoking after midnight if the test is to be done tomorrow

The Procedure:

The following are the steps involved in the test –

  • at least one and half cups of the barium sulphate should be drank and the solution would take at least 30 minutes (in some 60 minutes) for filling the stomach
  • with the help of X-rays, the path of the solution through the digestive system will be observed
  • if need be, more barium sulphate has to be drank for obtaining more pictures

After the Procedure:

As mentioned above, one of the most common side-effects of this test is constipation. So, it is advised that patients who undergo this test consume a lot of fluids along with foods rich in fiber. For the first three days, the stools passed would also be chalky (color of the solution) which is actually not a big issue.


barium swallow test

is very useful for diagnosing problems with the digestive system that cannot otherwise be spotted using imaging techniques alone.

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