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Barium Meal and Enema

Barium Meal/Swallow

Barium meal in stomach
Barium Meal, Chesterfield Royal Hospital

A Barium Meal/Swallow is an x-ray examination of the oesophagus (passage from mouth to stomach), stomach and first part of the bowel. Barium is a chalky dense liquid, which shows up on x-rays.


The Radiologist will watch the patient drink this on a screen and will then take pictures of the barium in the patient’s stomach. The examination takes around 10 minutes.


The patient is asked not to have anything to eat or drink six hours before their appointment. After the appointment they are advised to drink plenty of fluids to prevent constipation.

As you can see here, the barium coats the food pipe so that the radiographer or radiologist can see any blockages or unusual  anatomy.

We can then follow the barium further down into the stomach, which is now outlined with barium, to visualise this area.

Photo: Imaging Dept, CRH

Photo: Imaging Dept, CRH

Barium Enema

Barium enema

Here we can see lots of small pockets called diverticula.

Photo: Imaging Dept, CRH

This allows us to visualise the bowel by putting barium into the patient's rectum.


 The examination will take up to twenty minutes in the x-ray room but the time spent in the Department may be a good deal longer, possibly up to one and a half hours.

It may be necessary for the patient to have an injection of a bowel muscle relaxant in order to help the x-ray department achieve a good quality examination.

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