Radiology – Fluoroscopy Department
Your consultant or GP has requested that you attend for a barium swallow test. This leaflet is designed to explain what the examination involved. The examination will be carried out in the x-ray department at the James Cook University Hospital or The Friarage Hospital.
If you are unable to attend, please contact us immediately to rearrange. This will allow us to use the appointment for another patient. Telephone: 01642 282639.
What is the examination for?
A barium swallow shows the passage of fluid (barium) down the gullet (oesophagus) from the mouth to the stomach. X-rays are used to watch the fluid whilst you are swallowing.
Preparation for the examination
Please do not stop taking any prescribed drugs. (These can be taken with a small amount of water).
Diabetic patients (tablet or insulin controlled):
- Morning appointments – Bring your medication with you to take after your examination.
- Afternoon appointments – Have a light breakfast and take your morning medication as normal.
What the test involves
You will be asked to change into a hospital gown and remove any jewellery. The radiographer or radiologist performing the examination will talk to you and explain what will happen.
You will be asked to swallow the fluid and x-ray pictures will be taken of you swallowing. You may be asked to chew a marshmallow to swallow with some of the fluid, to mimic the flow of food down to your stomach. Pictures will also be taken of your stomach from different positions.
The examination will take approximately 30 minutes.
After the examination
You can return to eating and drinking as normal. It is advised that you increase the amount you drink slightly after the examination to prevent you becoming constipated.
The results of the test
You will not be given the result straight away. The consultant or radiographer will examine your x-rays and send a report to the referring doctor, which is normally less than 14 days.
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.