Barium tests are used to examine the condition of the digestive tract using a white, ‘radio-opaque’ powder called barium sulphate. For the barium meal, the powder is mixed with water (and sometimes flavouring), swallowed and then x-rays are taken.
For a barium enema, the powder is mixed with a fluid and introduced through a tube inserted into the rectum. The images allow the radiologist to evaluate a wide range of problems, including areas of narrowing, ulceration or damage to the digestive tract.
Yes, appointments are essential.
For a barium swallow you will be given some liquid barium to drink while standing in front of an X-ray camera. The liquid is white and chalky with no distinct taste. The barium is dense so it can be seen inside your body with the X-ray machine as it passes through. You may be asked to hold the liquid in your mouth and then swallow when asked to ensure the timing is measured. The Radiologist will watch the liquid as you swallow it and take images accordingly. Front and side-on perspectives are usually observed. You may be given some additional liquid or granules that will make gas in your stomach. The gas makes you stomach easier to see but will give you the urge to burp (which you should refrain from until the study is complete). The standing camera table can be laid down so your digestion can be assessed when lying down. This is usually done at the end of the procedure. You may be asked to turn onto your tummy or side and drink some more barium through a straw.
For a barium enema you will be asked to lie on an x-ray table for a preliminary abdominal X-ray. The X-ray will confirm the preparation has adequately cleared the bowel.
A short, flexible, lubricated tube will be placed into your rectum. Tape will be placed on the skin to secure the tube in place. Sometimes a small balloon may be inflated to prevent the tube from falling out.
Barium liquid is passed through the tube and into the bowel. This may give you some urgency to use your bowel which you must resist. Once the bowel has been adequately filled it is partly drained out. A small volume of air is then introduced to the bowel using the same tube. You will be asked to move on the table into a variety of positions while X-rays are taken using live images. The Radiologist will need to make sure that your bowel is well coated with the mixture. The air will make you will feel pressure like you need to use your bowels again, but it is important to try to hold the liquid and air inside. There may be some discomfort during the procedure like a belly ache. As soon as the X-rays have been taken the air will be released in a controlled manner. The tube will then be removed and you will be able to go to the toilet. A bowel motion in the toilet will provide some immediate relief. The examination takes approximately 40 minutes.
You will need to fast for these studies as food can be seen in the X-rays. You are required to drink lots of water afterwards as the Barium tends to slow in the bowel and absorb lots of water required for digestion.
The examination takes approximately 40 minutes
Dr Glenn and Partners offers bulk billing and concessions for some of its services. The cost of the examination depends on a number of factors which will be clarified when making a booking or arriving at the practice.