Barium X-rays

Man in hospital with a pain

A barium swallow is a special type of X-ray that can show up parts of your digestive system, such as your oesophagus or stomach. You will be asked to drink a white chalky liquid called barium. The barium will show up the shape of your oesophagus on the X-ray.

Before the test

You must fast (not eat) for around 6 hours before the test. The hospital will usually provide written instructions before the procedure. Do ask your doctor and nurse any questions you might have.

During the test

As you drink the barium, your doctor will watch it on an X-ray screen flow down your oesophagus towards your stomach. X-ray pictures are taken to see if there are any abnormal areas.

Even though the liquid tastes chalky, it should not make you sick. But make sure you arrange for someone to bring you home afterwards.

After the test

Your bowel motions will be white or chalky–looking for a few days afterwards. This is normal, as all the barium does not leave your bowel straight after the test. If you feel a bit constipated, drink plenty of clear fluids or take a mild laxative for a couple of days. This will help you to have a bowel motion.

Does it hurt?


How long does it take?

About 15 minutes

For more information

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