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Radiology (Xray)

Barium Follow Through

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

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. We will ask you to drink a white liquid called barium which shows up on the x-rays.

Why do I need a barium follow through?Show [+]Hide [-]

  • Your doctor has referred you for this test to try and find out what may be causing your symptoms.

Who performs the barium follow through?Show [+]Hide [-]

  • The examination will be performed by a radiologist (medical doctor who specialises in interpreting diagnostic imaging) or a radiographer (a health professional trained to perform imaging procedures) .The radiologist or radiographer will explain what happens and will show you what to do.

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

  • It is important that your stomach is empty before the examination so please have no food, drink or tablets for six hours before your appointment time. Your tablets can be brought with you to have as soon as your examination is complete. Printed instructions will be included with your appointment letter. Please read these carefully.

I have diabetes. Does this change anything?Show [+]Hide [-]

  • Yes. If you are diabetic you should have a morning appointment. Please ring the appropriate help-line telephone number if your appointment time is not scheduled in the morning. Please bring your medication and because you will not have eaten for a period of time, some food or a snack with you to take after the examination.  Contact telephone numbers for barium appointments are:
  • RVI X-ray Appointments               0191 282 5627 (Monday to Friday 8.30am-5.00pm)
  • Freeman X-ray Appointments     0191 223 1012 (Monday to Friday 8.30am-5.00pm)


I take metformin (Glucophage, Avandamet) tablets. 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, 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.

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 between imaging. During waiting periods you are free to move around the department.

How does it feel? Are there any after effects?Show [+]Hide [-]

  • You should feel no discomfort during the examination.  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 and eating some fresh fruit to help prevent constipation.

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. Patients with oesophageal or bowel perforation and in cases of bowel obstruction should not have barium.  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 problems.

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.  The results will be sent back to the doctor who referred you for your scan.  This process takes approximately two 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.

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

  • Yes.

I need an ambulance/ transport. Do you arrange it?Show [+]Hide [-]

  • No.  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 for my appointment? Show [+]Hide [-]

  • If your appointment time is not convenient please contact the hospital department so that a more appropriate time can be arranged.  This will enable us to reallocate valuable scanning time to someone else:
  • RVI X-ray Appointments               0191 282 5627 (Monday to Friday 8.30am-5.00pm)
  • Freeman X-ray Appointments     0191 223 1012 (Monday to Friday 8.30am-5.00pm)

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

  • Should you have any suggestions or concerns, please make these known to the person conducting your examination or by letter addressed to the hospital that you are attending your examination:
  • The Departmental Manager, X-ray Department, Level 3, Royal Victoria Infirmary, Queen Victoria Road, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 4LP
  • The Departmental Manager, Main X-ray Department, Freeman Hospital, High Heaton, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE7 7DN
  • 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 produced by:
  • Dr J Scott Consultant Radiologist 
  • P Hughes Senior Radiographer

Diagnostic Imaging DatasetShow [+]Hide [-]

  • 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 
  • Email: 
  • Website:
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