Barium Swallow Complications

Submitted by Nick on October 18, 2012

A barium swallow test is used to find out why an individual has pain or difficulty with swallowing; it is also administered for symptoms such as bloodstained vomit, pain in the abdomen, and unexplained weight loss. The test involves conducting a series of X-rays of the stomach, duodenum, and esophagus, after the person has drunk a barium solution. With these X-rays doctors are able to track the path of the barium solution. Thus, barium sulfate, which is a metallic compound, is used to help see any abnormalities or problems in the upper gastrointestinal track.

A barium swallow test is generally safe, but barium swallow test complications may sometimes occur just as they might do in any other procedure. If you do have any problems, it best that you see your doctor as he can treat you right away. Here are a few barium swallow complications that might occur as a result of the test:

  • Some people are allergic to this solution, and drinking it could result in an anaphylactic shock or an allergic reaction.
  • Another problem that a few people have is that of constipation, so make sure you drink plenty of water and eat a well-balanced diet consisting of fruits and vegetables.
  • Sometimes, one can accidentally aspirate some barium (when it may go into your trachea). This could sometimes lead to pneumonia, especially in the case of children.
  • In cases where there is bowel obstruction, the barium can make your situation worse.
  • There could be barium spillage if there is a large rupture in your gastrointestinal lining.
  • Near vision can be impaired for about 30 minutes after this test as a muscle relaxant injection is used. You may therefore have blurred vision.
  • Stool may be pale as a result of the contrast.

It should be noted that barium swallow test risks are high in the case of pregnant women as there is a small radiation dose given during the procedure. Therefore, to avoid any barium swallow test complications, pregnant women should not opt for this procedure. Most of the barium swallow test side effects and barium swallow test complications will be explained by your doctor prior to the test being done. However, keep in mind that these tests mainly rely on X-ray images, and as a result, a number of details can be missed, particularly in the case of mild abnormalities or flat lesions. You may therefore need an endoscopic procedure so that the walls can be directly visualized or a tissue sample can be taken for biopsy.

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