Doctors ask their patients to do a barium swallow test when they want to know what is happening in the patient’s stomach, pharynx and esophagus (the tube that extends from the back of the tongue down to the stomach is known as the esophagus).
A barium swallow is a kind of X-ray test that absorbs X-ray and seems white in the X-ray film. This test is recommended when patients have difficulties in swallowing their food, drink or even saliva. By doing this test hiatal hernia, inflammation, blockages , muscle disorders, gastroesophageal reflex disease (GERD), ulcers, tumors (both cancerous and noncancerous), polyps (growths that usually aren’t cancerous but can grow into cancer), dysphagia (disorders of swallowing), narrowing of the esophagus, and abnormally enlarged veins in the esophagus that lead to bleeding can be diagnosed. Gastroscopy is an alternative for this test. In this method a telescopic camera is sent inside the food pipe, stomach and the first part of the small intestine to look inside. There is another type of barium test that is barium enema, in which barium and water is fed into the patient’s rectum through a small plastic tube. Air is also piped through the tube to inflate the bowel.
There are special diet orders before the test that patients need to follow them: the patients are not allowed to eat or drink anything for at least six hours before the procedure; but they may take small sips of water up until two hours before the procedure. If someone have diabetes, heart problems or use insulin, she needs to aware the doctors so they prepare food or insulin to use after the test or whenever is needed, but patients are not allowed to use insulin or take tablets before the test.
It is not a complicated test and some of the examiners acknowledge that the liquids test is not even bad. The result of the test usually leads to accurate evaluation of the esophagus, stomach and duodenum. Also radiography is an extremely safe, noninvasive procedure. The test takes about 30 minuets and it takes several days for preparing the result; then patients can show the result to their doctors.
At first people are asked to remove their clothing and jewelry, the technician gives the patient a barium drink. The drink is a chalky milkshake-like drink that contains barium and water. Patients need to drink it. It is possible that the technician ask the patient to drink more. Then the X-ray procedure will start and the radiologist watch how the barium moves through the pharynx. Patient might have to hold their breath at certain times to prevent any movement from disrupting the X-ray images. When all X-rays are completed, the patient may go back home and there is no need for hospitalization. Patients can follow their normal diet but it’s better to drink lots of liquid and eat high-fiber foods such as green vegetables to help move the barium through their digestive tract and out of their body.
Because human body does not absorb the barium, patients might notice that their stools are lighter in color. This is one of the advantages of using barium: since barium is not absorbed into the blood, allergic reactions are extremely rare (Occasionally, patients may be allergic to the flavoring added to some brands of barium). After several times it will go back to the normal color.
Also it is not normal to have trouble having a bowel movement or can’t have a bowel movement or having pain or bleeding. If you have these side effects make sure to tell your doctor as soon as possible. In addition Pregnant women should avoid barium swallow procedures, as these can cause birth defects.