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Barium sulfate (oral/rectal)

Generic Name: barium sulfate (oral/rectal) (BER ee um SUL fate)
Brand Name: Digibar 190, Entero VU, Esopho-Cat, Maxibar, Medebar Plus, Polibar ACB, Readi-Cat 2, Scan C, Sitzmarks, Sol-O-Pake, Tagitol V, Ultra R, Varibar Thin, Volumen, ...show all 61 brand names

Medically reviewed on May 24, 2018

What is barium sulfate?

Barium sulfate is a contrast agent. Barium sulfate works by coating the inside of your esophagus, stomach, or intestines which allows them to be seen more clearly on a CT scan or other radiologic (x-ray) examination.

Barium sulfate is used to help diagnose certain disorders of the esophagus, stomach, or intestines.

Barium sulfate may also be used for purposes not listed in this medication guide.

Important Information

Before your medical test, tell your doctor if you have ever had an allergic reaction to a contrast agent, or if you are pregnant or breast-feeding.

Before taking this medicine

You should not use barium sulfate if you are allergic to barium sulfate or another contrast agent.

You may not be able to use barium sulfate if:

  • you recently had surgery, an injury, or a biopsy involving your stomach, esophagus, or intestines;

  • you recently had radiation treatment of your pelvic area;

  • you recently had a perforation (a hole or tear) in your esophagus, stomach, or intestines;

  • you have a bowel obstruction, severe constipation, ileum, or toxic megacolon;

  • you have stomach bleeding; or

  • you have poor blood flow to your intestines (ischemia).

Tell your doctor if you have ever had:

  • asthma, eczema, or allergies;

  • slow digestion, a blockage in your stomach or intestines;

  • cystic fibrosis;

  • a colostomy;

  • rectal cancer;

  • heart disease or high blood pressure;

  • Hirschsprung's disease (a disorder of the intestines);

  • fructose intolerance;

  • a condition called pseudotumor cerebri (high pressure inside the skull that may cause headaches, vision loss, or other symptoms);

  • a fistula (abnormal connection) between your esophagus and your trachea (windpipe);

  • trouble swallowing, or if you have ever choked on food by accidentally inhaling it into your lungs;

  • a rectal biopsy;

  • an allergy to simethicone (Gas-X, Phazyme, and others); or

  • a latex allergy.

The radiation used in x-rays and CT scans may be harmful to an unborn baby. Before your medical test, tell your doctor if you are pregnant.

Before your medical test, tell your doctor if you are breast-feeding a baby.

How is barium sulfate given?

Follow all directions on your prescription label and read all medication guides or instruction sheets. Use the medicine exactly as directed.

Barium sulfate comes in tablets, paste, cream, or liquid forms. In some cases, barium sulfate is taken by mouth. The liquid form may also be used as a rectal enema.

If you receive barium sulfate as a rectal enema, a healthcare professional will give you the medicine at the clinic or hospital where your testing will take place.

You may need to begin taking oral barium sulfate at home, a day before your medical test. Follow your doctor's dosing instructions very carefully.

Swallow the tablet whole and do not crush, chew, or break it.

Dissolve the powder in a small amount of water. Stir and drink this mixture right away. Add a little more water to the glass, swirl gently and drink right away.

Shake the oral suspension (liquid to take by mouth) before you measure a dose. Use the dosing syringe provided, or use a medicine dose-measuring device (not a kitchen spoon).

Carefully follow your doctor's instructions about what to eat or drink within the 24-hour period before your test. Drink plenty of liquids to prevent constipation.

Store barium sulfate at room temperature away from heat and moisture. Keep the bottle tightly closed when not in use.

What happens if I miss a dose?

If you are using barium sulfate at home, call your doctor for instructions if you miss a dose.

What happens if I overdose?

Seek emergency medical attention or call the Poison Help line at 1-800-222-1222.

What should I avoid after using barium sulfate?

Follow your doctor's instructions about any restrictions on food, beverages, or activity.

Barium sulfate side effects

Get emergency medical help if you have signs of an allergic reaction: hives; difficult breathing; swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

Call your doctor at once if you have:

  • severe stomach pain;

  • severe cramping, diarrhea, or constipation;

  • ringing in your ears;

  • sweating, confusion, fast heart rate; or

  • pale skin, blue-colored skin, weakness.

Common side effects may include:

  • mild stomach cramps;

  • nausea, vomiting; or

  • loose stools or mild constipation.

This is not a complete list of side effects and others may occur. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.

Barium sulfate dosing information

Usual Adult Dose for Computed Tomography:

The volume and concentration of the barium sulfate to be administered will depend on the degree and extent of contrast required in the areas under examination and on the equipment and technique employed.

Examination is commonly performed in association with an upper GI series. Under these circumstances, the patient should have nothing to eat or drink after midnight before the examination. The morning of the examination, the patient may wash the mouth with water but should not swallow the water.

What other drugs will affect barium sulfate?

Other drugs may affect barium sulfate, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal products. Tell your doctor about all your current medicines and any medicine you start or stop using.

Further information

Remember, keep this and all other medicines out of the reach of children, never share your medicines with others, and use this medication only for the indication prescribed.

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

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