Barium Small Bowel


PREPARATION REQUIRED: “NPO” after midnight the evening before. Specifically, no food or liquids, including water until after the exam has been completed.

DESCRIPTION: Serial abdominal films (usually every 15 minutes) are taken following ingestion of approximately 16-24 ounces of barium solution. The small colon is many feet in length and the purpose is to visualize every portion of it, from its’ proximal portion at the stomach to the distal end where it joins the large intestine. The time required for this examination varies with the patient. It can be completed in as little time as one hour or may take many hours. It is totally dependent upon the colonic peristalsis of each individual patient and cannot be predicted in advance. We recommend the patient bring reading material or other items to keep their interest.

PROCEDURE EXPLAINED: The patient is asked to change into a gown, removing all items of clothing containing snaps, zippers, hooks, buttons, etc. A preliminary film (“scout film”) is taken with the patient lying on his/her stomach on the x-ray table. The purpose of this film is to know what the abdomen looks like without any barium. This is shown to the Radiologist prior to the barium drink. All future small bowel films will be taken with the patient in the prone position (lying on the stomach). The patient is then given the barium and instructed to try and finish drinking it within ten minutes. The first film is taken 15 minutes after the drinking has started. Films are timed from then on, usually every 15 minutes for at least the first hour to hour and a half. When the barium has reached the terminal ileum (the entrance into the large intestine) the Radiologist or Technologist will take special “spot films” under fluoroscopy of that area. A compression paddle may be used to press on that area of the abdomen (lower right side) for those films. After that, the patient is free to leave.

TOTAL TIME REQUIRED: Anywhere from one hour to six hours; cannot be predetermined. Please see explanation in “Description” above.

FOLLOW-UP INFORMATION FOR THE PATIENT: If you are prone to constipation, barium may aggravate that condition. You should make certain that you drink a large amount of water throughout the day after your Small Bowel Series. If you would normally take a laxative to prevent constipation, we recommend you do so following the ingestion of barium. If uncertain as to what to take, please consult your physician or pharmacist. Be aware that your stool will be lighter in color than normal. Barium enters and leaves the body “white”. Because every individual is different, we cannot predetermine how long it will take to eliminate all the barium from your system. Please continue to ingest extra water until your stool has returned to normal color and bowel habits have resumed normalcy.


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Medical Specialty Center
1485 37th Street, Suite 107
Vero Beach, Florida 32960