Barium Swallow

Barium Swallow is a topic covered in the Davis's Lab & Diagnostic Tests.

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Esophagram, video swallow, esophagus x-ray, swallowing function, esophagography.

To assist in diagnosing disease of the esophagus such as stricture or tumor.

Patient Preparation
There are no activity restrictions unless by medical direction. Instruct the patient to fast and restrict fluids for 8 hr, or as ordered, prior to the procedure. Fasting may be ordered as a precaution against aspiration related to possible nausea and vomiting. The American Society of Anesthesiologists has fasting guidelines for risk levels according to patient status. More information can be located at

Note: If iodinated contrast medium is substituted for barium contrast in patients receiving metformin or drugs containing metformin for type 2 diabetes, the drug may be discontinued on the day of the test and continue to be withheld for 48 hr after the test.

Regarding the patient's risk for bleeding, the patient should be instructed to avoid taking natural products and medications with known anticoagulant, antiplatelet, or thrombolytic properties or to reduce dosage, as ordered, prior to the procedure. Number of days to withhold medication is dependent on the type of anticoagulant. Note the last time and dose of medication taken. Protocols may vary among facilities.

Pediatric Considerations: The fasting period prior to the time of the examination depends on the child's age. General guidelines are as follows: birth to 6 mo, 3 hr; 7 months to 2 yr, 4 hr; 3 yr and older, 6 hr.

Ensure that this procedure is performed before an upper gastrointestinal (GI) study or modified (video) swallow and after cholangiography and barium enema, if these tests are ordered, to avoid retention of residual barium in the abdomen, which may obscure details of interest in the upper GI or modified swallow study.

Normal Findings

  • Normal peristalsis through the esophagus into the stomach with normal size, filling, patency, and shape of the esophagus.

Critical Findings and Potential Interventions

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