GIT imaging

Barium Meal (Gastrografin)

The barium meal is a radiological examination of the upper gastro-intestinal tract which includes the oesophagus, stomach and duodenum. It is used to demonstrate inflammation, structure formation, hiatal hernia as well as ulcers and tumours.

It can be performed using a single or double contrast technique where barium is swallowed and a series of X-rays is taken. The optimum way of performing this examination utilises the double contrast method which produces good distension as well as a good coating of the mucosal surface permitting demonstration of superficial abnormalities as well as larger lesions.

The examination commences with an intravenous injection of Buscopan (or equivalent) which causes relaxation of the smooth muscle in the stomach for 10 to 15 minutes.
This allows the stomach to be adequately distended and stops peristalsis for the period of the test.

A granular effervescent agent is then swallowed with a small amount of water.
This generates gas in the stomach to distend it. Thereafter you will be asked to swallow a small cup of barium while X-rays of the oesophagus are taken.

A further series of X-rays is taken showing these areas in a variety of projections to demonstrate any abnormalities.

The conclusion of the examination, a mild purgative is administered to facilitate the passage of the barium and the patient is encouraged to drink plenty of fluid.

The barium may colour your stools grey or white for 48 to 72 hours after the procedure. Sometimes the barium can cause temporary constipation, which is usually treated with an over-the-counter laxative. Drinking large quantities of fluids for several days following the test can also help.

If you are unable to have a bowel movement or if your bowel habits undergo any significant changes following the exam, you should contact your physician.

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