Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine.
Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Barium X-Ray

Barium X-Rays

Patient Information

For scheduling please call
281-274-7170
or email us at
MSLHImaging@houstonmethodist.org.

Hours:
Imaging & Diagnostic Services
Monday - Friday,
7:00 a.m. - 11:00 p.m.
Saturday,
7:00 a.m. - 2:30 p.m.

Breast Center
Monday - Friday,
7:30 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.
Saturday,
8:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.

For every test performed at Houston Methodist Sugar Land Hospital, our team of physicians, nurses and technologists performing and interpreting the exams brings a wealth of experience to the case. Ongoing communication between the referring physician and our radiologists in the department is a priority — helping to keep your needs at the top of the list, every time.

What are Barium X-rays?

Barium x-rays (also called upper and lower gastrointestinal (GI) series) are used to diagnose abnormalities of the gastrointestinal tract, such as tumors, polyps, hernias, strictures, ulcers and other inflammatory conditions. With the use of barium sulfate, a metallic chemical that x-rays will not pass through, x-rays are taken of the area under examination.

On the Day of Your Barium X-Ray

Where do I go? Campus Map

At the time your appointment is scheduled, you will be instructed to go to the Main Hospital or the Sweetwater Pavilion. When you enter, go to the Information Desk and our staff will gladly direct you from there.

When Should I Arrive?

Arrival times vary based on the type of test that will be performed. If you are not sure of your time of arrival, please call 281-274-7170 to clarify for your specific test.

Why are Barium X-rays Performed?

Reasons for performing barium x-ray procedures may include the following:

  • abdominal pain
  • bleeding from the rectum
  • blood in the vomit
  • bowel movement changes
  • chronic diarrhea or constipation
  • pain or difficulty swallowing
  • unexplained weight loss
  • unusual bloating

What are the Different Types of Barium X-ray Procedures?

  • Barium Enema – to assess large intestine
  • Small Bowel Follow Through (also called Small Bowel Series) – to assess small intestine
  • Upper Gastrointestinal (GI) Series – to assess esophagus, stomach and duodenum
  • Barium Swallow – to assess esophagus
  • Modified Barium Swallow – to assess esophagus with Speech Pathologist present during exam

What is a Barium Enema?

A barium enema involves filling the large intestine with diluted barium liquid through a rectal tube while x-ray images are being taken. Barium enemas are used to diagnose disorders of the large intestine, colon and rectum, such as colonic tumors, polyps and diverticulae.

On the Day of Your Barium Enema

Where do I go? Campus Map

At the time your appointment is scheduled, you will be instructed to go to the Main Hospital or the Sweetwater Pavilion. When you enter, go to the Information Desk and our staff will gladly direct you from there.

When Should I Arrive?

Arrival times vary based on the type of test that will be performed. If you are not sure of your time of arrival, please call 281-274-7170 to clarify for your specific test.

How do I Prepare?

Usually, a barium enema can be performed on an outpatient basis. The patient will be asked to do the following in preparation for a barium enema:

  • Drink clear liquids the day before the examination
  • Take a laxative, suppository or drug to cleanse the bowel
  • Refrain from eating and drinking after midnight on the night before the examination

Please click here to download the easy to follow Preparation Instructions to help you correctly prepare for you exam.

These measures are done to empty the large intestine, as any residue (stool) can obscure the image.

Most local pharmacies will have the preparation kit needed for this test.

How is a Barium Enema Performed?

Barium enemas are performed in two ways:

  • Single-contrast image - when the entire large intestine is filled with barium liquid. Single-contrast images show prominent abnormalities in the large intestine.
  • Double-contrast image - when a smaller quantity of thicker barium liquid is introduced to the large intestine, followed by air. Double-contrast images show smaller surface abnormalities of the large intestine, as the air prevents the barium from filling the intestine. Instead, the barium forms a film on the inner surface.

Generally, a barium enema procedure follows this process:

  1. The patient is positioned on an examination table.
  2. A tube is inserted in the rectum to allow the barium to flow into the intestine.
  3. The radiologist uses a machine called a fluoroscope (a devise used for the immediate viewing of an x-ray image).
  4. During the procedure, the machine and examination table will move, and the patient may be asked to change positions.
  5. After the procedure, a small amount of barium will be expelled by the body immediately. The remainder of the liquid is later excreted in the stool. Barium liquid may cause constipation. Following the examination, the patient may be asked to eat foods high in fiber and drink plenty of fluids to help expel the barium from the body.
  6. Additional x-rays may be made immediately after the procedure in order to obtain greater details of the area under examination.

Will it Hurt?

There will be some discomfort involved after the rectal tube is inserted and while the procedure is being performed. Once the procedure is complete, you should not experience any pain.

How Long will the Exam Take?

The exam will usually last approximately one hour.

After Your Test:

A board certified radiologist will interpret your exam. Legally, the technologist cannot interpret or discuss what they are viewing while performing the exam. A report with the results will be sent to your physician within two to three business days. Please check with your physician’s office to discuss the results.

What is a Small Bowel Follow Through?

A Small Bowel Follow Through is a series of x-rays taken to examine the stomach and small intestine.

How do I Prepare?

Patients will be asked to refrain from eating or drinking after midnight on the night before the examination.

How is a Small Bowel Follow Through Performed?

A Small Bowel Follow Through is often performed on an outpatient basis in the radiology department. Generally, a Small Bowel Follow Through follows this process:

  1. Initial x-rays will be taken of abdomen for the radiologist to review prior to drinking barium liquid.
  2. Patient will be asked to drink 16-20 ounces of a milkshake-like drink that contains a substance called barium.
  3. After the patient has finished drinking the barium, the technologist will take a series of abdominal x-rays every 15-30 minutes. The length of the exam is different for every patient.
  4. Once the barium reaches a certain point within the colon, the radiologist may take additional x-ray images to complete the study.
  5. After completion of the study, you may be asked to drink plenty of fluids to help expel the barium from the body.

Will it Hurt?

This exam should not be painful.

How Long will the Exam Take?

The length of the test can vary. It may take 1 - 4 hours to complete in most cases, as the test is not complete until the barium has moved through the small intestine and enters the large intestine.

After Your Test:

A board certified radiologist will interpret your exam. Legally, the technologist cannot interpret or discuss what they are viewing while performing the exam. A report with the results will be sent to your physician within two to three business days. Please check with your physician’s office to discuss the results.

What is an Upper Gastrointestinal (GI) Study?

An Upper GI is an examination of the esophagus, stomach and duodenum. The purpose of the Upper GI is to study the form and function of the esophagus, stomach and duodenum, as well as to detect abnormal anatomical and functional conditions. Some of the more common abnormalities seen are peptic ulcers, hiatal hernias, acute or chronic gastritis, carcinomas and benign lesions such as polyps or diverticulae.

How do I Prepare?

Do not eat or drink after midnight the night before the procedure is to be performed. Under direct supervision by the radiologist, the patient will be asked to drink barium in preparation for the exam.

How is an Upper Gastrointestinal (GI) Study performed?

After the patient drinks the barium, the radiologist will evaluate the structure of the anatomy of the upper gastrointestinal tract. After the initial examination by the radiologist, the x-ray technologist will obtain further views of the stomach.

After completion of the study, you may be asked to drink plenty of fluids to help expel the barium from the body.

Will it Hurt?

No. This is a non-invasive procedure that requires only oral contrast to be given followed by a series of x-ray images.

How Long will the Exam Take?

The exam length is usually between 30-45 min.

After Your Test:

A board certified radiologist will interpret your exam. Legally, the technologist cannot interpret or discuss what they are viewing while performing the exam. A report with the results will be sent to your physician within two to three business days. Please check with your physician’s office to discuss the results.

What is a Barium Swallow Study?

A Barium Swallow Study, also called an esophagram, is an examination of the upper gastrointestinal (GI) tract, specifically the pharynx (back of mouth and throat) and the esophagus (hollow tube of muscle extending from below the tongue to the stomach).

How do I Prepare?

There is no prep required for a Barium Swallow Study.

How is a Barium Swallow Study Performed?

You may be positioned on an x-ray table that can tilt you from a horizontal to an upright position. You may also be asked to change positions (e.g., lying on your side, back, or stomach) at intervals during the procedure. Under direct supervision of the radiologist, you will be asked to drink barium, a milkshake-like substance. As you swallow the barium, the radiologist will take a series of pictures. The technologist may or may not take additional views of the esophagus once the radiologist leaves the room.

Will it Hurt?

This exam should not be painful.

How Long will the Exam Take?

The exam will usually last approximately 30 minutes.

After Your Test:

A board certified radiologist will interpret your exam. Legally, the technologist cannot interpret or discuss what they are viewing while performing the exam. A report with the results will be sent to your physician within two to three business days. Please check with your physician’s office to discuss the results.

What is a Modified Barium Swallow Study?

A modified Barium Swallow is a test used to evaluate the swallowing process for people who are having problems speaking or swallowing food without aspirating it into the windpipe.

How do I Prepare?

There is no preparation required for a barium swallow study.

How is a Modified Barium Swallow Study Performed?

During this x-ray procedure, the patient will be under direct supervision of a speech pathologist and radiologist. The patient will be given small amounts of a barium preparation of varying consistencies from thin liquids to paste and might be asked to eat some solid foods coated with barium. Varying the amounts and consistency of the contrast material allows your physician to determine which types of food are difficult for the patient to swallow and to locate the structure responsible for the trouble. The test is usually performed with a speech pathologist present that can assess the patient’s swallowing ability and devise a strategy to correct the problem. The patient may be asked to change head position, breathing pattern, chewing habits, or the consistency of your food.

Will it Hurt?

This exam should not be painful.

How Long will the Exam Take?

The exam will usually last approximately 30 minutes.

After Your Test:

A board certified radiologist will interpret your exam. Legally, the technologist cannot interpret or discuss what they are viewing while performing the exam. A report with the results will be sent to your physician within two to three business days. Please check with your physician’s office to discuss the results.