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Barium Swallow

Medically reviewed by Drugs.com. Last updated on Jan 5, 2023.

What is a barium swallow?

A barium swallow, or modified barium swallow, is a test that may help find the cause of swallowing problems. A barium swallow is also called an esophagography.

How do I prepare for a barium swallow?

  • Do not eat, drink, or smoke for at least 8 hours before the test. This includes sucking on candy or mints. Food, liquid, and smoking increase saliva and affect barium.
  • Your healthcare provider will tell you not to wear jewelry, a bra, or glasses during the test. He or she will also ask you to remove any piercings.
  • Tell your provider about your current medicines and any allergies you may have.
  • Tell your provider if you know or think you are pregnant.

What will happen during a barium swallow?

You will drink barium liquid while x-ray pictures are taken. You may be asked to change positions on the x-ray table. You may swallow a barium pill instead of the liquid.

What should I expect after the barium swallow?

Your healthcare provider will tell you which foods to avoid if needed. Drink liquids as directed. You may need to drink more liquids to help your body get rid of the barium.

When should I call my doctor?

  • You have abdominal pain or bloating.
  • You cannot have a bowel movement.
  • You have questions or concerns about your test.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.