What is the test for?
A barium meal and follow through shows part of your digestive system called the small intestine.
Preparation for the test
The day before your examination you must follow a low residue diet.
Example meal plan:
- Fruit juice (with no bits)
- Tea or coffee
- Cornflakes or Rice Krispies with milk
- Egg – poached, boiled or scrambled
- White bread and butter, seedless jam
Lunch and dinner
Tender meat, poultry or fish
Boiled or mashed potatoes or white pasta or rice
One portion of soft cooked vegetables
Plain cake, jelly, custard or rice pudding
Plain biscuits or cakes, white bread, plain crackers and cheese, yoghurt
Please do not stop taking any prescribed drugs. (These can be taken with a small amount of water).
Diabetic patients – tablet or insulin controlled – bring your medication with you to take after your examination.
What the test involves
You will be asked to change into a hospital gown. You may bring your own dressing gown and slippers to wear if you wish. You will be brought into the room where the radiographer performing the examination will talk to you and explain what will happen.
You will be asked to drink some white liquid (barium), and then you will be asked to lie on the x-ray table to take a picture of your stomach. You will then be sat in the waiting area to drink the remaining liquid over a period of 10 minutes.
You will be brought back into the room, approximately every 20 to 30 minutes, until the liquid reaches your large bowel. At this point the doctor or radiographer will finish the test by taking some pictures whilst pressing on your stomach with a wooden paddle.
The examination will take approximately between one and a half hours to three hours. Sometimes, in a few cases the examination may take longer than three hours.
After the examination
You can return to eating and drinking as normal. Drink lots of water so you don’t get constipated by the barium in your bowel.
The results of the test
A report will be sent back to the doctor who sent you for this test.
Is there anything I should tell the staff?
For patients with ovaries, between the ages of 12 and 55, the x-ray department has a legal responsibility to ensure that this examination is performed within ten days of the first day of your menstrual period. Please contact the x-ray department if you are pregnant or if this appointment is beyond the ten day requirement, and another appointment will be arranged for you.
If you have special needs or disabilities, please contact the x-ray department on 01642 282639
What about transport to the hospital?
Transport has not been arranged for this appointment. If an ambulance is required, please contact your GP at least 48 hours before the appointment date. All car parks are pay and display.
Radiation dose and risk
X-rays use ionising radiation which can cause cell damage that may, after many years or decades, turn cancerous. The risk of this happening is very small compared to the normal lifetime risk of developing cancer which is 1 in 2. We are also all exposed to background radiation every day.
The risk of long-term effects is considered when the healthcare team decide whether someone needs an x-ray examination and radiation doses are kept as low as possible. For this examination radiation dose levels are typically equivalent to around 6 to 12 months of background radiation. The associated risk is less than 1 in 10,000 – Very Low.
South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust would like your feedback. If you wish to share your experience about your care and treatment or on behalf of a patient, please contact The Patient Experience Department who will advise you on how best to do this.
This service is based at The James Cook University Hospital but also covers the Friarage Hospital in Northallerton, our community hospitals and community health services.