1- What a Barium swallow test is and what it is used for?

The test is used to image your upper gastrointestinal (GI) tract (from your mouth to esophagus). It is issued to diagnose problems in the upper GI as recommended by your doctor.

2- Barium swallow test procedure:

You will be changed into a gown, you will be asked to swallow a thick, chalky barium drink. The drink may be flavored but do not expect it to taste good! As you swallow the barium, pictures using x-rays will be taken. You may also be given a thinner barium drink, and repeat the process and may also be given a tablet of barium.

3- Barium swallow preparation:

No eating or drinking for 8 hours before the swallow test.

4- What happens after the test?:

You may return to normal eating and drinking habits and activities after a test unless otherwise stated. You may experience constipation; drink plenty of fluid and eat foods with high in fiber to help with constipation. You may also see lighter color bowel movements which will go away after all the barium has left.
If you experience any health problems or side effects, seek a physician (available on site) right away.

Barium Swallow vs. Endoscopy

Which should you chose?

There are a number of symptoms that require investigation either by; endoscopy or barium swallow.

The following are a group of typical symptom that lead a doctor to recommend one of the above tests

  • Reflux (gastric)
  • Stomach ulcers
  • Hiatal hernia
  • Bleeding (either vomiting blood or passing blood in your stool)

Barium swallow/barium enema advantages:

It is a type of x-ray where the individual swallows barium (a milky-like substance) and then an x-ray image is taken. The barium makes it for the radiologist to detect abnormalities in the stomach.


This procedure is a lot more invasive. A mild sedative has to be given to the patient to numb the back of the throat and relax the individual. Then a rubber tube with a camera at the tip (the endoscope) is passed down the throat into the stomach or alternatively through the anus up into the bowels. In this manner, the bowel can be viewed and photographed.

Potential side effects

  • Bacterial infectionBleeding
  • Tears of the stomach or bowels