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.

Preparation for your 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 423132 or 01709 427086 to speak to a 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. 

Before the procedure

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

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


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.

The procedure

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

You will need 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 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 better 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.

After your procedure

You may eat and drink normally, and you should increase your normal fluid intake 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 Doctor who referred you for this procedure, who will discuss them with you at your next clinic appointment. If you have been referred by your own GP, a report will be sent to them within 2 weeks.

Possible risks of the procedure

You may experience constipation for a few days after the procedure. Drinking plenty of fluids will help alleviate this. You may also notice the white barium in your faeces 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.
Revised September 2006, July 2009, October 2011, March 2014, October 2015, January 2019, September 2021. 
Revision due September 2023. Version: 8.0
©The Rotherham NHS Foundation Trust 2021. All rights reserved.

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  • Page last reviewed: 28 January 2023
  • Next review due: 28 January 2024