X Ray vision of a person eating & drinking

Why is barium used during some X-ray tests?
The gut (gastrointestinal tract) does not show up very well on ordinary X-ray pictures. However, if you drink a white liquid that contains a chemical called barium sulphate, the outline of the upper parts of the gut (oesophagus, stomach and small intestines) shows up clearly on X-ray pictures. This is because X-rays do not pass through barium.

Barium follow through
This test is similar to a barium meal but aims to look for problems in the small intestine. Therefore, you drink the barium liquid but then need to wait 10-15 minutes before any X-rays are taken. This allows time for the barium to reach the small intestine. You may then have an X-ray every 30 minutes or so until the barium is seen to have gone through all the small intestine and reached the large intestine (colon).

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Small intestine enema
This test is similar to a barium follow through. However, instead of drinking the barium liquid, a thin tube is passed down your gullet (oesophagus), through the stomach and into the first part of the small intestine. Barium liquid is then poured down the tube. This test is not commonly done, but can give some different information about the small intestine to the tests above.

Barium enema
This is a test to take X-ray pictures of the colon. See separate leaflet called Barium Enema..

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