Test Details & Preparation
A barium swallow is an imaging test that uses X-rays to look at your upper gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Your upper GI tract includes the back of your mouth and throat (pharynx) and your esophagus.
You may have just a barium swallow or this test can be done as part of an upper GI series. This series of test looks at your esophagus, stomach, and the first part of the small intestine (duodenum).
X-rays use a small amount of radiation to create pictures of your bones and internal organs. X-rays are most often used to find bone or joint problems, or to check the heart and lungs. A barium swallow is one type of X-ray.
Fluoroscopy is often used during a barium swallow. Fluoroscopy is a type of X-ray “movie.”
The test also uses barium. Barium is a substance that makes certain area of the body show up more clearly on an X-ray. The doctor will be able to see size and shape of the pharynx and esophagus. The doctor will also be able see how you swallow. These details might not be seen on a standard X-ray. Barium is used only for imaging tests for the GI tract.