Barium Swallow

Note: The following preps are for pediatric care only.

For questions about any of these preps, please contact the Radiology Reception Desk, at 763-2573 for more information.

An Upper Gastrointestinal Study is used to examine the stomach and how it empties. The patient drinks a white chalky substance called Barium Sulfate. Barium is safe and does not dissolve or react in the body. It is used as a contrast material because it blocks the path of a x-ray beam, thereby making an area appear white against a dark background. The Barium we use is strawberry flavored and resembles a thick shake.

  • For a child under the age of 3 we use a special device called an octagon board where the child is secured during the exam like a little papoose. This does not hurt the child but it does help reduce the amount of radiation the child receives during the exam and also allows the Radiologist to turn the child quickly onto their side so as not to miss any crucial anatomy on the exam. The child will be fed through a long straw that is connected to a nipple in the child’s mouth which allows us to monitor the amount of Barium they receive and how fast. The Radiologist will bring the fluoroscope (x-ray camera) over the child and the child will look like they are in a tent. He then will watch the Barium as the child swallows and will follow the track of the contrast as it leaves the stomach. Snapshot pictures (x-ray) films will be taken throughout this process. A parent is allowed to be in the room with the child to help comfort them if required.
  • Children over the age of 3 years will be lying on the x-ray table. An x-ray camera called a fluoroscope will come over the child which will not touch or hurt them. They will drink the Barium from a straw while the Radiologist watches them drink on the tv screen and will take snapshot pictures of this process. The child can also watch the TV screen! He will occasionally ask the child to turn onto their right or left sides as he watches the flow of Barium and takes films of the stomach.

Small Bowel Follow Through is a continuation of the Upper G.I. exam where we take x-ray films at timed intervals as the Barium goes through the intestines. Depending upon patient the exam will last approximately 2 hours and can take as long as 4 to 6 hours.

Reviewed: 7/2011