Barium x-ray

Barium swallow test

A safe and rapid test that reveals early and subtle changes in both structure and function in all aspects of swallowing

About barium swallow test

A barium swallow test is an examination of your food pipe (oesophagus). This is the tube between your mouth and stomach. During the test you will be asked to drink a liquid (barium) to see what happens when you swallow. You may also be asked to eat some bread or marshmallows soaked in barium.

Need to know

  • What happens icon plus

    The procedure will be performed by a radiologist. You will be asked to change into a hospital gown before being taken into the examination room. You will be told to stand on a small platform and asked to drink a liquid (barium) that is visible on X-rays. Whilst you drink the liquid X-rays will be taken. Most people drink a thick liquid but sometimes a thinner liquid is used. The platform will then be tilted so you are lying down and more images taken. You may be asked to lie on your front and drink some more liquid. When enough pictures have been taken the examination is over.
  • How to prepare icon plus

    You should not eat or drink for four hours before a barium swallow test. If you need to take regular medication during this time speak to your consultant.
  • Afterwards icon plus

    You will be able to return to your normal activities immediately following the procedure. It is important to drink plenty of fluids to help flush the liquid out of your system. Your stools may be pale in colour for a short time due to the barium.

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This content is intended for general information only and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional.
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