A Barium swallow, or upper gastrointestinal (GI) series, is an X-ray test that is used to examine and evaluate the upper digestive tract. The upper digestive tract refers to the esophagus, stomach, and small intestine. These organs are typically not visible with a traditional X-ray test, which is where the barium comes in. Barium is a white, chalky liquid that shows up on X-rays, illuminating the upper GI tract and allowing your Arlington gastroenterologist to get a more in-depth look at the area. Barium works by temporarily coating the lining of the esophagus, stomach, and small intestine, making the outline of these organs now visible on the X-ray images.
Reasons for a Barium Swallow
A barium swallow may be scheduled by your Arlington, Texas gastroenterologist in order to diagnose and treat numerous digestive disorders. A barium swallow may also allow your gastroenterologist to see whether or not tumors or polyps are present on the esophageal wall. If necessary, this procedure will allow your doctor to decide whether a biopsy or polyp removal is necessary.
However, a barium swallow is most commonly used if a patient is experiencing difficulty swallowing or esophageal dysmotility. A barium swallow may also be used to diagnose the following conditions:
- Inflammation in the intestine
- Hiatal hernias
- Certain types of cancers
- Problems resulting in the narrowing of the esophagus
Before the Procedure
You will be asked to stop eating and drinking the night before your test. It is extremely important that you follow these instructions, as any food in your stomach or intestine could prevent your Arlington gastroenterologist from seeing a clear outline of the area in question.
What to Expect
At the start of the procedure, you will be required to drink 16 to 20 ounces of barium, a milkshake-like drink that does not taste nearly as good. In some cases patients will be asked to swallow tablets that fizz and cause air bubbles, allowing your Arlington gastroenterologist to get better pictures of the area in question. After you have ingested the barium concoction the X-ray technician may ask you to stand or lie in various positions, ensuring the liquid is thoroughly spread throughout your body.