Barium Swallow - Esophagram

Your doctor has requested a procedure called an esophagram or barium swallow. This exam is performed to assess frequent heartburn (pain), gastric reflux (food/acid coming back up), aspiration (food or fluid in your wind pipe), difficulty eating, drinking, or swallowing.

At the S. Mark Taper Foundation Imaging Center we have a team of imaging physicians, nurses and technologists led by Richard Sukov, MD FACR, chief, Gastrointestinal Radiology, who specialize in gastrointestinal procedures and who will be performing your exam and interpreting the results.

Before Your Procedure

  • For a satisfactory exam, your stomach must be empty. It is important that you not eat or drink anything for four hours before your exam.
  • Additionally, do not use gum, mints or cigarettes after midnight the night before your exam.
  • If your doctor gave you an order, please bring it with you.
  • We want to make any time you have to wait as pleasant as possible. Please consider bringing your favorite magazine, book or music player to help you pass the time.

During Your Procedure

  • The technologist will explain your procedure and answer any questions you may have before your exam.
  • You will be asked to change into a gown.
  • Your exam will be performed on a tilting table that will allow the procedure to be performed with you standing and lying down.
  • You will stand for the first portion of your study and will drink a cup of liquid (barium).
  • The imaging physician will watch the flow of the liquid with a fluoroscope (an X-ray unit combined with a television screen). The liquid will move from your mouth to your stomach.
  • The imaging physician will ask you to turn in different positions while taking pictures.
  • For the second portion of your procedure you will lie on the exam table, on your stomach and drink more liquid.
  • The imaging physician will take additional pictures in this position.
  • After the imaging physician has completed the initial imaging, the technologist will take an additional series of X-rays.
  • Your procedure will take approximately 60 minutes.

After Your Procedure

  • Drink plenty of liquid for 24 to 48 hours.
  • The barium may make your stool white for several days.
  • If you experience constipation, your physician may recommend a mild laxative.
  • Your study will be read by the imaging physician and results sent to your physician, usually within 48 hours. Your physician will discuss these results with you and explain what they mean in relation to your health.
For more information or to schedule an appointment