Barium Tests

Barium Enema X-Ray

Barium is a white liquid that shows up clearly on an X-ray. Once it is inside you, it coats the inside of the gullet, stomach or bowel. And so it shows up the outline of the organs on the X-ray. If there is a tumour, it will show up as an irregular outline extending out from the wall of the affected body organ.


Barium does not do you any harm and passes through your digestive system. A barium swallow may make you feel sick. Over the couple of days following the test, the barium may cause

* Mild constipation

* White stools the first couple of times you go to the toilet

Barium Swallow

Is an x-ray of the throat and esophagus, the tube connecting the throat to the stomach. Barium blocks x-rays so that the outline of the throat and esophagus will show up on the film. The pictures are used to help pinpoint your problem.

Barium meal

It is a procedure in which barium sulfate is ingested by a patient and, in conjunction with X-rays, images depicting the digestive system: the distal esophagus, stomach and duodenum, are obtained. There are two varieties of barium meal, these being single and double contrast meals. A single contrast meal uses only barium to image the upper gastrointestinal tract while a double contrast meal uses barium as well as air. The double contrast meal has the advantage of demonstrating mucosal details and so is much more useful as a diagnostic test allowing the detection of small mucosal lesions.

Barium enema

Also called a lower gastrointestinal series, is a medical procedure used to examine and diagnose problems with the human large intestines. An X-ray examination of the large intestines, pictures are taken after rectal instillation of barium sulfate.


This test may be done in an office or a hospital radiology department. The patient lies on the X-ray table and a preliminary X-ray is taken. The patient is then asked to lie on the side while a well-lubricated enema tube is inserted gently into the rectum. The barium, a radiopaque (shows up on X-ray) contrast medium, is then allowed to flow into the colon. A small balloon at the tip of the enema tube may be inflated to help keep the barium inside. The flow of the barium is monitored by the health care provider on an X-ray fluoroscope screen (like a TV monitor). Air may be puffed into the colon to distend it and provide better images.


The patient is usually asked to move to different positions and the table is slightly tipped to get different views.


If a double or air - contrast examination is being done, the enema tube will be reinserted gently and a small amount of air will be gently introduced into the colon, and more X-ray pictures are taken.


Barium should fill the colon uniformly and show normal bowel contour, patency (should be freely open), and position.


Abnormal findings may include cancer, diverticulitis (small pouches formed on the colon wall that can become inflamed), polyps (a tumor, usually noncancerous, that grows on the mucous membrane), inflammation of the inner lining of the intestine (ulcerative colitis), and irritable colon. An acute appendicitis or twisted loop of the bowel may also be seen.

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