Having a barium swallow or barium meal


You have been advised to have a barium swallow and/or barium meal. This is a procedure to examine your oesophagus (tube from your mouth to your stomach), and your stomach. You will be asked to drink a liquid called barium whilst having X-rays of your oesophagus and stomach as this liquid can be seen on X-ray pictures.

How do I prepare for my procedure?

Please have nothing to eat or drink for six hours before your appointment. If you have diabetes please contact the Appointments Clerk in the Department of Clinical Radiology on 01709 426307 to speak to the booking team or 01709 427086 to speak to a Radiology Nurse at least 48 hours before your appointment.

Can I take my usual medication?

On the day of your procedure, you may still take your normal medications with a small amount of water. 

What should I do before the procedure?

Please inform the Clinical Radiology department before your appointment if you have breathing difficulties.

This procedure involves sitting and standing for short periods so please inform us if you require assistance with your mobility.

The table that you will need to lay on is quite hard. You can take pain relief before coming if you think this may be a problem for you.

What do I do if I could be pregnant?

This examination must only take place during the first 10 days of your period (counting day 1 as the first day of your period). If there is any possibility of you being pregnant then you must inform the Clinical Radiology department on 01709 426307.

What happens during the procedure?

On arrival at the Clinical Radiology department, your identification and allergy details are checked.

You will be asked to change into an examination gown. The doctor or nurse will explain the procedure to you. You will then be asked to stand or sit on a small platform in front of the X-ray machine.

A small plastic cup containing the barium liquid will be given to you to hold. The doctor will give you instructions on when to swallow the liquid. X-ray images will be taken of you standing up and lying down on the table. 

Some patients may be asked to swallow some granules called Carbex, with a small amount of liquid. This creates gas in the stomach and allows us to examine your stomach in more detail.

How long will the procedure take?

Usually, the procedure takes 15 to 20 minutes, but expect to be in the department for approximately 30 minutes.

What should I do after the procedure?

You may eat and drink normally, and you should drink more liquids for the rest of the day to flush the barium liquid out of your system.

When will I know the results?

The results will be sent to the healthcare professional who referred you for this procedure, who will discuss them with you at your next appointment with them. If you have been referred by your General Practitioner (GP) then the results should be sent to them within 2 weeks.

What are the possible risks of the procedure?

You may experience constipation for a few days after the procedure. Drinking plenty of fluids will help with this. You may also notice the white barium in your faeces (poo) for a few days. This is normal.

How to contact us

Clinical Radiology Department

For general enquires about your appointment

01709 426307

For enquiries about preparation for your examination, or to speak to a Radiology Nurse

01709 427086

You may reach an answering machine. Please leave your contact number, and the nurse will phone you back between the hours of 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.

Having a barium swallow or barium meal - patient information leaflet
Produced by the Clinical Radiology Department, April 2004. 
Revision due October 2025. Version: 9.0
©The Rotherham NHS Foundation Trust 2023. All rights reserved.

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