The Barium Swallow is most often carried out for infants who have frequent reflux episodes or difficulty in swallowing. The test requires the patient to drink a solution of barium (metallic element barium in water). Baby will be hungry having been asked not to feed before hand for up to 12 hours, so it will go down quite well!
Once the liquid is taken down, the barium clings to and coats all the tiny ripples in the oesophageal lining, making them visible to a flouroscope. The flouroscope is a device which will show a real-time image created by X-rays passing through the body.
The pictures taken will show how the liquid moves from baby’s mouth to Pharynx (opening at the back of the mouth) and then passing through the oesophagus to the stomach.
The results of a barium swallow may be as follows:
- Oesophagus muscle weakness
- Oesophageal stricture – a narrowing due to repeated exposure to acid reflux
- Oesophageal ulcers – reflux related erosion of the surface tissue in the oesophagus
- Oesophageal tumours
- Hiatus hernia
If a Barium Swallow test has been suggested for your little one, don’t forget to ask all the questions you can of your paediatrician covering before, during and after the test, so that you are confident about the procedure.