Barium Meal

A basic examination of the upper digestive tract

A barium meal is an x-ray examination of the upper gastrointestinal tract. It involves swallowing a liquid contrast, called barium, which coats the lining of the esophagus, stomach and small intestine so that it can be seen using a fluoroscope. Liquid suspensions of barium sulfate are non-toxic, apart from a small risk of producing a disturbance in bowel function for 48 hours after ingestion.

Please remember to bring all previous x-rays with you to your appointment.


You must not eat or drink anything after midnight the night before the examination. If you are diabetic or have any other medical condition which requires a special diet and drugs, please inform us before your appointment.

A barium meal takes approximately 30 minutes. You may be given granules which, when swallowed, will release some gas in your stomach. It is important to try to keep the gas in the stomach for the duration of the test. A cup of barium is then swallowed and you will be asked to roll into different positions on the x-ray table. A small injection may also be given to help relax your stomach. This may cause temporary blurring of vision (you should not drive a car until your vision has returned to normal). The barium will be viewed on the x-ray machine while you are moved into different positions to allow the barium to reach all parts of the stomach. The Radiologist will take a series of x-rays. While being x-rayed it is important to follow directions and hold your breath when asked, to ensure the x-rays are not blurred.

After the barium meal you may feel a disturbance in bowel function, for approximately 48 hours, due to the constipating effect of the barium. You should drink plenty of fluids. Your bowel actions may be white for some days following the procedure. This is completely normal.