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Radiology (Xray)

Barium Follow Through

Appointments: RVI: (0191) 282 4330; Freeman Hospital: (0191) 223 1012

IntroductionShow [+]Hide [-]

This webpage is designed to give you some information about a Barium Follow Through, to help you prepare for your examination and to give you some idea of what to expect when you attend.

What is a Barium Follow Through?Show [+]Hide [-]

A Barium Follow through is an X-ray examination of the small bowel, which links the stomach and large bowel.



Do I need any special preparation before the examination?Show [+]Hide [-]

It is important that your stomach is empty before the examination and therefore you will not be able to have any food or drink after midnight on the day before your examination. Printed instructions will be given to you with your appointment information. Please read these carefully.



I am a Diabetic. Does this change anything?Show [+]Hide [-]

Yes.  The preparation procedure may change. Please ring the appropriate help-line telephone number (as below) at the hospital you are attending and speak to a member of the medical staff who will advise you. 


·        Royal Victoria Infirmary  (0191) 282 4330

·        Freeman Hospital             (0191) 223 1012


I take Metformin Tablets (Glucophage, Avandamet). Does this change anything?Show [+]Hide [-]

Yes - Metformin (Glucophage, Avandamet) is most commonly taken by diabetic patients to control blood sugar, but occasionally is taken for other conditions.


If you are taking Metformin (Glucophage, Avandamet), your preparation for the procedure may change.  Please ring the appropriate help-line telephone number, as above and speak to a member of staff, who will be able to advise you. 



What does the examination involve?Show [+]Hide [-]

  • A radiographer or nurse will ask you to undress and put on a hospital gown and dressing gown.
  • You will be asked to drink some flavoured barium liquid to outline your small bowel.
  • X-ray images will then be taken at regular intervals, as the barium liquid moves through your bowel.



Will I need an injection?Show [+]Hide [-]

No, an injection will not be necessary.



How long will it take?Show [+]Hide [-]

This varies greatly from patient to patient. The examination can last from two to six hours. It is advisable to bring something to keep you occupied.



Are there any side effects?Show [+]Hide [-]

There are no short-term side effects. However, in the few days after examination your stools may turn white. This is the barium working though your system, and is helped by drinking plenty of water.



What are the benefits of having a Barium Follow Through?Show [+]Hide [-]

This examination will help us make the correct diagnosis so you will be able to be given the correct treatment.

What are the risks of having a Barium Follow Through?Show [+]Hide [-]

We are all exposed to natural background radiation every day of our lives. Each X-ray examination gives us a small additional dose. This dose varies with each type of examination. Everything is done within the X-ray department to minimise this dose.  X-rays may be harmful to an unborn child, especially in the earlier stages of pregnancy.

There are very few risks associated with the barium liquid as it is not absorbed by the body. It only coats the wall of the oesophagus, stomach and bowel. Barium is contraindicated in patients with oesophageal or bowel perforation and in cases of bowel obstruction.  For a small number of patients there is a small risk of aspiration (inhaling of the barium liquid).  This is unlikely but the risk increases with patients with known difficulties or previous aspiration.   



Can I drive home?Show [+]Hide [-]



When will I get my results?Show [+]Hide [-]

After your scan has finished we will not be able to tell you the results as the reporting Radiologist or Radiographer will need to study the images carefully.  If you have come from home, the results will be sent back to the doctor who referred you for your scan.  This process takes approximately 2 weeks, so unless other arrangements have been made you should expect to hear something after this time.

If you are undergoing planned investigations on a ward, the result will be sent to the ward as soon as possible.  The doctors on the ward may be able to discuss the findings with you.




I need an ambulance. Do you arrange this?Show [+]Hide [-]

If you need an ambulance/ transport, you should ask your GP Surgery to arrange it. You will need to give them three working days notice.  Please note that hospital transport is provided on medical need only.

What if I cannot attend my appointment?Show [+]Hide [-]

If your appointment time is not convenient please contact the relevant hospital department so that a more appropriate time can be arranged.  This will enable us to reallocate valuable scanning time to someone else.

Freeman X-ray Appointments     0191 223 1012 (8.30am-5.00pm)

RVI X-ray Appointments               0191 282 5627 (8.30am-5.00pm)

What if I have any comments, questions or suggestions?Show [+]Hide [-]

Should you have any worries or concerns, please make these known to the person conducting the examination or by letter addressed to the hospital that you are attending your examination:


Royal Victoria Infirmary


The Departmental Manager

Xray Department, Level 3

Queen Victoria Road                             

Royal Victoria Infirmary

Newcastle upon Tyne



Tel: (0191) 282 1099


Freeman Hospital


The Departmental Manager

Main Xray Department

Freeman Hospital

High Heaton

Newcastle upon Tyne



Tel: (0191) 282 1099


Monday to Friday 8.30am to 5.00pm

All Newcastle Hospitals: Switchboard Tel: (0191) 233 6161 (24 hours)

The Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS) can offer on-the-spot advice and information about the NHS.  You can contact them on freephone 0800 032 02 02 or email

Map details: Due to the transformations of the Newcastle Hospitals, please go to the Trust web site to check for progress updates:

Information from your diagnostic test will contribute to the Diagnostic Imaging Dataset. 

The Diagnostic Imaging Dataset (DID) is a database that holds information on the imaging tests and scans carried out on NHS patients. This will allow the Health and Social Care Information Centre to see how different tests are used across the country.

Nothing will ever be reported that identifies you.  All information is stored securely. It is only made available to appropriate staff, and is kept strictly confidential. However, if you do not want your information to be stored in the DID, please tell the people who are treating you. They will make sure your information is not copied into the DID.

You may, at a later date, still decide to opt out.  Please contact the Health and Social Care Information Centre directly, their contact details are:

Telephone: 0845 300 6016 



Information produced by: Dr J Scott, Consultant Radiologist, & Miss P White Senior, Senior Radiographer

© Copyright Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust 2018 Site by TH_NK