Barium X-ray examinations

Procedures used to detect and follow the progress of some gastrointestinal tract disorders. Because X-rays do not pass through it, barium is used to outline organs, such as the stomach, which are not normally visible on an X-ray. In some cases, barium X-rays are an alternative to endoscopy. Barium sulphate mixed with water is passed into the part of the tract requiring examination, and X-rays are taken. X-rays may be singleor double-contrast. Single-contrast barium X-rays use barium sulphate alone. The barium fills the section of the tract and provides an outline image that shows up prominent abnormalities. In double-contrast barium X-rays, the barium forms a thin film over the inner surface of the tract, and the tract is filled with air so that small surface abnormalities can be seen. Different types of barium X-ray examination are used to investigate different parts of the gastrointestinal tract. Barium swallow involves drinking a barium solution and is used to investigate the oesophagus. A barium meal is carried out to look at the lower oesophagus, stomach, and duodenum. Barium followthrough is used to investigate disorders of the small intestine; X-rays are taken at intervals as the barium reaches the intestine. A barium enema is used to investigate disorders of the large intestine and rectum; barium is introduced though a tube inserted in the rectum. Barium remaining in the intestine may cause constipation. Therefore, it is important to have a high-fibre diet and drink plenty of water after a barium examination, until all the barium has passed through.


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