What Are The Side Effects of Barium Swallow Test?

Submitted by Medical Health Test Team on October 18, 2012

Barium is a popularly used radio contrast material. It is applied to tests where the internal structure of the digestive system needs to be tested. In the case of a barium enema, the contrast is injected into the intestine and the subsequent images show barium as a coating on the intestines. This coating will take the shape of the intestines and any abnormality or growth can be detected by viewing an x-ray taken after a barium enema. A barium swallow test is one that is conducted on the upper parts of the digestive system. The first of these parts is the esophagus which is the pipe that the food travels down before entering the stomach. The next part is the stomach and the final part tested using a barium swallow test is the upper part of the digestive system.

A barium swallow test requires the subject to swallow some barium fluid that is not harmful to the digestive process. Along with this, some food might be consumed as well. A normal x-ray would pass straight through hollow organs such as the esophagus and the stomach. However, once barium has been consumed, the linings of these organs become visible as they are coated with barium which is opaque to an x-ray machine. The movement of food and the lining of the digestive system can be tested using such a procedure.

A barium swallow test is ordered to understand why a person is suffering from heartburn, indigestion or difficulty in swallowing. Any obstructions or abnormalities will be readily visible in such a test. As with most medical procedures, there is a risk associated with a barium swallow test. Most tests pass without a hint of trouble and the procedure is generally considered to be safe. However, one may suffer from side effects such as feeling bloated after the procedure. Muscle relaxants used might cause temporary difficulty in urination. It is possible to be constipated after a barium swallow test and this constipation might last for a few days after the procedure. A person suffering from constipation after a barium swallow test should report to the doctor where mild laxatives will most likely be prescribed. Generally, it is not considered to be entirely safe to use x-ray methods when a woman is pregnant, so this is a risk associated with a barium swallow test when the test is being conducted on a pregnant woman.

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