Barium Meal/Swallow

What is a Barium swallow?


A Barium Meal or Swallow is an examination of the oesophagus, stomach and small intestine. The examination uses an x-ray contrast called barium to demonstrate the anatomy of these regions and gives an indication of their functions.  A Barium Meal or Swallow can be used in the diagnosis and ongoing management of a variety of conditions. The reasons for the examination are so varied you need to talk to your doctor about why you need a Barium Meal or a Barium Swallow.

What to expect


  • A member of staff will explain the procedure and answer any questions that you may have.
  • You will be taken to a change room where you will be required to remove some of your clothing and jewellery and wear an x-ray gown.
  • You stand on an upright x-ray machine and drink a barium solution when requested by the doctor. Often you may be asked to consume some liquid that creates gas within your stomach, this helps to visualise all of the structures.
  • Several pictures are then taken, you may or may not have to lay down for some of the images. And you will need to hold your breath.
  • You may be given an injection of a drug that relaxes your bowel. This lasts about 15-20min and may result in some blurred vision. If you experience any symptoms then please speak to the radiologist performing the exam.
  • After the examination it is advisable to drink plenty of water and more roughage for a few days to help clear the residual barium, a mild laxative may be required.
  • The test can take fifteen to 30 minutes.