Barium swallow test, Preparations and results
Barium swallow test, What is a esophagram test, when is it required of you, and how is it performed? What are the implications of its results?
Table of Contents
Barium swallow test uses a white powder called barium sulfate to examine the digestive tract. X-rays can reveal this powder.
Other names: Upper GI series, esophagogram, esophagram, swallow study.
What Is Barium Swallow Test?
A barium swallow test, also known as an upper GI series or esophagogram, is a imaging test that uses x rays, or fluoroscopy imaging test that checks for problems in your upper GI tract, which includes your mouth, back of the throat, pharynx, esophagus, stomach, and first part of your small intestine (duodenum).
X-rays help physicians visualise various sections of the gastrointestinal tract by providing a series of radiographic images. A contrast medium is introduced into the body as part of a barium swallow; such substances serve to increase the contrast between structures and fluids in the body. It provides the radiologist with a much clearer picture of any abnormalities that may be present when used in conjunction with an X-ray.
A barium swallow test is performed by swallowing a chalky white substance called barium. It’s typically used in conjunction with water to create a thick drink that resembles a milkshake. This fluid coats the interior of the upper GI tract.
Barium absorbs X-rays and appears white on film. This helps the X-ray image show these organs, as well as their inner linings and the movement of your swallowing. These images aid your doctor in the diagnosis of GI disorders.
What is its purpose?
A barium study is performed to aid in the diagnosis of conditions affecting the throat, oesophagus, stomach, and first part of the small intestine. These are some examples:
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
- Hiatal hernia
- GI tract structural issues, such as polyps, and diverticula
- Muscle disorders
Symptoms of an upper GI disorder that may need this test include:
- Trouble swallowing
- Abdominal pain
What happens during a barium swallow?
A radiologist or a radiology technician is usually the one who performs a barium swallow. Typically, a barium swallow consists of the following steps:
- The health provider will instruct you to take a thick, chalky barium shake orally, that coats the lining of your gastrointestinal tract.
- You might also be asked to take a barium tablet. This is a small pill that can help detect certain esophageal problems.
- You will be asked to take off any clothing, jewellery, or other objects that could interact with the test.
- On an x-ray table, you will either stand, sit, or lie down. During the test, you may be asked to shift positions. You may be required to keep lying on your side, back, or stomach.
- The radiologist will take single pictures, by use X-rays, or fluoroscopy as you swallow the barium to watch it move through your mouth and throat, down to oesophagus and then the rest of your GI tract.
- During the test, you may be asked to hold your breath at times.
- The technician may apply pressure to your stomach to help the barium move through your GI tract.
- The digestive tract is examined using barium tests, which take about 15 minutes depending on the patient.
Before modified barium swallow study, It’s important to follow the dietary guidelines your doctor gives you. before your procedure You are not supposed to eat or drink anything for six hours. You may take small sips of water up until two hours before your procedure.
Risks of a barium swallow
You should not perform this test if you are pregnant or suspect you may be pregnant. Radiation can be harmful to a foetus.
On the other hand this test poses little risk to others. The radiation dose is relatively low and is not considered dangerous to most people. But, If you have any of the following conditions, you should not have a barium swallow:
- An esophageal or intestinal tear or hole (perforation).
- Intestinal blockage or severe constipation
- Severe swallowing difficulties. This increases the likelihood of barium accidentally entering your lungs (aspiration).
Other risks may exist based on your particular health condition.
Normal swallow result indicates that there were no abnormalities in the size, shape, or movement of your throat, oesophagus, stomach, or first part of the small intestine.
If your videofluoroscopic swallow study results were abnormal, you could be suffering from one of the following conditions:
- Hernia hiatal
- Diverticula is a condition in which small sacs form in the intestine’s inner wall.
- Esophageal stricture is a narrowing of the oesophagus that can make swallowing difficult.
If you have any concerns about your results, speak with your doctor.
- Helicobacter Pylori (H. Pylori) Tests
- Esophageal pH Test
A barium swallow test alone is frequently insufficient to make a final diagnosis. Other tests, such as esophagoscopy or other endoscopic or imaging procedures, may be required so that your care team can examine a tissue biopsy and view the area in greater detail.