Barium follow-through

print_iconLeaflet number: 133
Review due date: April 2018


What is a barium follow-through?

A barium follow-through means swallowing special solutions that allows us to look at the middle part of the bowel (the small bowel). The doctor in the clinic will have explained why you need to have this done.

What does it involve?

  • You will be asked to remove your clothing and put on a gown.
  • You will be given a large amount of barium solution and then methylcellulose solution to drink. You can add blackcurrant, orange or lemon flavour to the methylcellulose solution, which tastes of metal. Barium is a white substance that shows up the outline of the bowel on x-ray pictures. The methylcellulose solution helps distend the bowel so we can get better pictures.
  • As the liquid passes through the bowel, several x-ray pictures are taken lying on your tummy.
  • Once the barium has reached the colon (usually within three hours), the doctor looks more closely at parts of the bowel with you lying on your back, presses on your tummy with a wooden spoon and gets you to roll into different positions.

How long will it take?

The test will normally start in the morning and be finished by lunchtime. However, if the barium and methylcellulose pass through the system slowly, the barium follow-through can occasionally take up the afternoon too.

What preparations are needed?

You should not eat or drink anything for four hours before the test.

If you have diabetes that requires treatment by tablets or injection, please telephone the Diabetic Nurse between 9am and 5pm (Monday to Friday) for advice. The telephone number is 01271 322726.

Are there any side-effects or after-effects?

We would not normally expect you to have any side-effects after this test.

After the test you may notice some discolouration of the motions and more-frequent bowel actions for a day or so. Sometimes barium can cause constipation. To avoid this, drink plenty of fluids and eat normally after the test.

Further information

If you have any concerns or questions, please telephone the X-Ray Department on 01271 322435, between 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday.


Posted in Patient Information Leaflets, X-ray/scan and tagged , .

Last updated: October 23, 2019