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Acid Reflux Test - Barium swallow x-rays

Also called barium swallow radiograph.

Barium x-rays, also known as barium swallow, are diagnostic x-rays in which barium is used to diagnose abnormalities of the digestive tract.

How the Test is Done

The patient drinks 16 - 20 ounces of a chalky colored liquid that contains barium. It coats the walls of the esophagus and stomach, and is visible on x-rays. An x-ray method called fluroscopy tracks how the barium moves through your esophagus, stomach, and small intestine. Pictures are taken with you in a variety of positions against an upright x-ray table in front of a fluoroscope. You may be sitting or standing. The test usually takes around 3 hours. However, in some cases, it may take up to 6 hours to complete. A person reading the x-ray can then see if there are strictures, ulcers, hiatal hernias, erosions or other abnormalities. This test is not sensitive enough to be used as a reliable diagnostic test for GERD. It is used more often in patients who are experiencing difficulty with swallowing.

How to Prepare for the Test

These tests are usually done on an outpatient basis in the radiology department of your hospital. You should not eat or drink anything after midnight on the night before the exam.

How the Test Will Feel

The x-ray may cause mild bloating but usually causes no discomfort. The barium milkshake feels chalky as you drink it.

Risks and Possible Complications

There is low radiation exposure, which carries a very small risk of cancer. X-rays are monitored and regulated to provide the minimum amount of radiation exposure needed to produce the image. The risk is low compared with the benefits.

Pregnant women should usually not have this test. Children are more sensitive to the risks of x-rays.

Barium may cause constipation. It is advisable to drink plenty of fluids and eat high-fiber foods for the next day or two until the barium passes from the body.

Acid Reflux Test - Barium swallow x-rays: References

By Mortin - Copyright 2009
Last modification 31/12/2009