How It Is Done continued...
The radiologist watches the barium pass
through your gastrointestinal tract using fluoroscopy and X-ray pictures. The
table is tilted at different positions and you may change positions to help
spread the barium. Some gentle pressure is put on your belly with a belt or by
the technologist's gloved hand. You may be asked to cough so that the
radiologist can see how that changes the barium flow. See an image of a
barium swallow .
If you are having an air-contrast study, you will
sip the barium liquid through a straw with a hole in it or take pills that make
gas in your stomach. The air or gas that you take in helps show the lining of
the stomach and intestines in greater detail.
If you are also
having a small bowel study, the radiologist watches as the barium passes
through your small intestine into your large intestine. X-ray pictures are
taken every 30 minutes.
The UGI series takes 30 to 40 minutes. The UGI
series with a small bowel study takes 2 to 6 hours. In some cases, you may be
asked to return after 24 hours to have more X-ray pictures taken.
When the UGI series is done, you may eat and drink whatever you like,
unless your doctor tells you not to.
You may be given a laxative
enema to flush the barium out of your intestines after
the test to prevent constipation. Drink a lot of fluids for a few days to flush
out the barium.
How It Feels
The barium liquid is thick and chalky,
and some people find it hard to swallow. A sweet flavor, like chocolate or
strawberry, is used to make it easier to drink. Some people do not like it when
the X-ray table tilts. You may find that pressure on your belly is
uncomfortable. After the test, many people feel bloated and a little
For 1 to 3 days after the test, your stool (feces) will
look white from the barium. Call your doctor if you are not able to have a
bowel movement in 2 to 3 days after the test. If the barium stays in your
intestine, it can harden and cause a blockage. If you become constipated, you
may need to use a laxative to pass a stool.
Barium does not move into the blood, so
allergic reactions are very rare.
people gag while drinking the barium fluid. In rare cases, a person may choke
and inhale (aspirate) some of the liquid into the lungs.
a small chance that the barium will block the intestine or leak into the belly
through a perforated ulcer. A special type of contrast material (Gastrografin)
can be used if you have a blockage or an ulcer.
There is always a
small chance of damage to cells or tissue from being exposed to any radiation,
even the low level of radiation used for this test.