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Radiology (Xray)

Barium Meal & Swallow

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

IntroductionShow [+]Hide [-]

This web page is designed to give you some information about having a Barium Swallow and Meal, to help you prepare for your examination and to give you some idea of what to expect when you attend.


What is a Barium Meal and Swallow?Show [+]Hide [-]

It is an X-ray examination of the gullet (oesophagus) and stomach.


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.



RVI Afternoon Appointments OnlyShow [+]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 6 hours prior to 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. (see next question also).


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.
  • In the X-ray room you will be asked to drink some flavoured barium liquid to outline your oesophagus and stomach, and some granules with a small amount of water.
  • The granules fizz and form wind in your stomach. It is important to try to keep the wind down to enable the doctor to produce good images.
  • During the examination the doctor will tilt the examination stand so that you move from the standing position to lying down and ask you to turn into different positions for the X-rays to be taken.

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

Some patients need a small injection to relax their stomach muscles (only if having the Barium Meal), as part of the examination. Following this injection you may experience some blurred vision but this will only last a short while.



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

The examination usually takes 20-30 minutes. However, it is sometimes necessary to take additional delayed films, and so it is advisable to allow one to one-and-a-half hours in the department.



What are the benefits of having a Barium Swallow and Meal?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 Meal and Swallow?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 lining of the oesophagus, stomach and bowel. However 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 the barium liquid). This is unlikely but the risk increases with patients with known difficulties or previous aspiration


How does it feel? Will I have any side effects following the examinationShow [+]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 through your system, and is helped by drinking plenty of water.



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 Departmental Manager at the appropriate hospital, as below:


Royal Victoria Infirmary


The Departmental Manager 

Xray Department, Level 3

Queen Victoria Road                             

Royal Victoria Infirmary

Newcastle upon Tyne



Tel: (0191) 282 1099


Monday to Friday 8.30am to 5.00pm


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

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, and Miss P White, Senior Radiographer.

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