Barium Swallow/Esophagram

Learn More About Barium Swallow/Esophagram

The upper gastrointestinal (UGI) tract extends from the esophagus to the end of the small bowel. Three separate X-ray examinations may be done, either alone or in combination, to produce images of this system. The 3 exams are:

  • Barium Swallow, an examination of the canal in the throat that leads from the mouth to the opening of the stomach
  • Upper GI (UGI), an examination of the stomach
  • Small-bowel series, an examination of the small intestine

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What are common reasons to have an Upper GI?
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Chest and abdominal pain
  • Reflux (a backward flow of partially digested food and digestive juices)
  • Unexplained vomiting
  • Severe indigestion
  • Blood in the stool (indicating internal GI bleeding)
  • Ulcers
  • Tumors
  • Inflammation of the esophagus, stomach and duodenum
  • Hiatal hernias
  • Scarring
  • Blockages
  • Abnormalities of the muscular wall of GI tissues
What Should I Expect?

An Upper GI requires drinking a contrast medium to make your organs visible on X-rays. You will be given a barium solution (a thick, chalky substance). If you are having a Barium Swallow, you will also be asked to drink an air crystal solution (similar to Alka-Seltzer).

For a Barium Swallow or Upper GI, the technologist will use a fluoroscope to watch and take images while you drink the contrast. For a Small Bowel Series examination, you’ll first drink the contrast and then a technologist will periodically take films of your abdomen until the contrast has traversed the entire length of your small intestine (about 33 feet). When the contrast reaches your large intestine, the technologist will take some fluoroscopic images.

Barium Swallows and Upper GI exams take about 15 to 30 minutes. A small-bowel exam may take several hours, depending upon the speed at which the contrast moves through your small intestine. Every 15-30 minutes, a regular x-ray will be taken to follow the barium through the small bowel.

As soon as the study is completed, you may resume your normal diet. You should drink plenty of fluids to avoid becoming constipated.

Make an Appointment

Typically your referring physician will schedule an appointment for you. If you have been asked to schedule the appointment yourself, please have your physician’s order and any pre-authorization information required by your insurance or health plan provider in hand, and call 850-878-4127.

How Should I Prepare?

To ensure the best possible study, your stomach must be empty of food or liquid. If you are undergoing any or all of the Upper GI Series studies, please do not drink water, take medications, smoke, or chew gum the morning of the exam. Have nothing to eat or drink after midnight the day of your exam. If you are having a Small Bowel exam, be prepared to stay several hours in the office.

Your doctor will inform you of the important preparation necessary for this exam. You can also Radiology Associates, and a technologist will advise you of the proper steps toward a successful exam.

Since the tests use x-rays, the technologist will ask females of childbearing age whether there is any chance they are pregnant.

Be sure to tell your doctor and imaging center staff about any possible allergies to iodine or x-ray contrast prior to scheduling the procedure.

When Will I Receive Results?

Most examinations take anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes. Frequently, the Radiologist will review your findings with you prior to your departure.