Barium Swallow

A barium swallow (also called an esophagram) is an x-ray study dedicated to the esophagus. A barium swallow tells us about strictures, rings, hiatal hernia, masses, and other esophageal abnormalities that may contribute to your swallowing problem. It also gives us clues about the function, or motility, of your esophagus. A barium swallow is particularly useful for looking at how well your upper esophageal sphincter opens. A barium swallow does not typically give up information about what solids and/or liquids are safe for you to eat and drink (see Modified Barium Swallow).

A barium swallow takes about 15-20 minutes. You will start in an upright position and will eventually lie on both your side and your back (if you are able). You will be asked to drink about 1-2 cups of liquid barium, a chalky substance that shows up very well on x-rays. You may also be given a barium pill and/or a barium marshmallow. Barium can be constipating, so you’ll want to plan on keeping your self well-hydrated for a day or two after the study. The study involves a very low dose of x-ray exposure.

This barium swallow shows an obstructing narrowing (Schatzki’s ring) in the lower esophagus with a small hiatal hernia.

  

 

This barium swallow shows an obstructing narrowing (Schatzki’s ring) in the lower esophagus with a small hiatal hernia.

Schatzki's Ring
   
Zenker's Diverticulum

This barium swallow show a small Zenker’s diverticulum which can cause swallowing problems, regurgitation, bad breath, and aspiration.

 

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Last Updated: 03-05-2014
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Disclaimer: The information on this website is for general informational purposes only and SHOULD NOT be relied upon as a substitute for sound professional medical advice, evaluation or care from your physician or other qualified health care provider.