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GIT (Barium) Imaging

  • GIT imaging is the procedure whereby the Gastro Intestinal Track (GIT) is examined during a fluoroscopy procedure.  The GIT includes the pharynx (throat), oesophagus (the passageway that connects your throat to your stomach), stomach, small and large intestines.
  • A fluoroscopy (video) is an X-Ray procedure that produces real-time pictures on a screen instead of taking regular still individual pictures (similar to an X-Ray movie).  This allows the Radiologist to observe how an organ performs its normal function (e.g., how the oesophagus works during swallowing).
  • Barium is a naturally occurring element that appears white on X-Rays.  In these tests, the barium is given as a flavoured drink (like a milkshake).  When swallowed, barium coats the walls of the digestive tract, which allows the shape of the upper digestive tract to be outlined on an X-Ray.  Without the barium the upper digestive tract would be barely visible on an X-Ray image.
  • Different X-Ray examinations, that are utilised to observe the GIT, include the Barium Swallow, Barium Meal and the Barium Enema.

Barium Swallow

  • General Information

    • Both the Barium Swallow and Barium Meal tests involve swallowing a liquid suspension of barium sulphate while a series of X-Rays are taken of your upper digestive tract. 
    • During the test, X-Ray images are taken of your pharynx (throat) and your oesophagus (the passageway that connects your throat to your stomach). 
    • A Barium Swallow may be performed to diagnose structural or functional abnormalities of the pharynx and oesophagus.  These abnormalities may include, but are not limited to cancers of the head, neck, pharynx, and oesophagus as well as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and ulcers.
  • Before your Barium Swallow

    • Please arrive 15 minutes early to complete all the necessary paperwork.
    • You can also download the patient information form here.
    • No additional special preparation is needed.
  • Let the Radiographer know

    • If there is any possibility that you might be pregnant
    • If you've had a recent barium X-Ray or cholangiography procedure, as this may interfere with obtaining an optimal X-Ray exposure of the upper Gastro Intestinal (GI) area.
  • What to expect

    • The examination will be performed by a trained Radiographer and reported on by a Radiologist.
    • You will be positioned on an X-Ray table that can tilt you from a horizontal to upright position. You may also be asked to change positions (for example, lying on your side, back, or stomach) at intervals during the procedure.
    • You may be asked to hold your breath at certain times during the procedure. This is in order to obtain clear images that aren’t blurry.
    • Standard X-Rays of the heart, lung, and abdomen may be performed first.
    • The Radiologist will ask you to take a mouth full of a thickened barium drink. The barium is usually flavoured, although it may not be very pleasant tasting.
    • The Radiologist will be taking single images, a series of X-Ray images, or a video (fluoroscopy) to observe the barium moving through the pharynx.
    •  You will be given another few mouths full of barium to swallow. X-Ray images and/or a fluoroscopy will be used to observe the barium's passage down the oesophagus.

    • For best results:
      • Cooperation with the Radiographer is essential to the success of the procedure.
  • After your Barium Swallow

    • You should be able to go home as soon as the test is finished.
    • You can eat normally straight after any barium test.
    • Drink plenty of fluids.
    • The barium will make your stools white or pale until it has all been cleared from your gut.
    • The barium does not get absorbed into the body.  Therefore, it is rare for a barium test to cause any other complications or side-effects.

Barium Meal

  • General Information

    • Both Barium Swallow and Barium Meal tests involve you swallowing a liquid suspension of barium sulphate before a series of X-Rays are taken of your upper digestive tract. 
    • A Barium Meal test is often performed straight after a Barium Swallow test. 
    • In a Barium Meal test, X-Ray images are taken of your stomach and the beginning of your duodenum (this is the beginning of your small intestine, the passageway that takes food away from your stomach).
  • Before your Barium Meal

    • Inform your doctor if you have insulin-dependent diabetes, so that we can arrange for the best time for you to stop eating and for the test to be done.
    • Please arrive 15 minutes early to complete all the necessary paperwork.
    • You can also download the patient information form here. 

    • Special preparation:
      • Please note that you are allowed nil per mouth 6 hours prior to the exam.
  • Let the Radiographer know

    • If there is any possibility that you might be pregnant.
    • If you've had a recent barium X-Ray examination or cholangiography (gall bladder) procedure, as this may interfere with obtaining an optimal X-Ray exposure of the upper GI area.
  • What to expect

    • The examination will be performed by a trained Radiographer and reported on by a Radiologist.
    • You will be positioned on an X-Ray table that can tilt you from a horizontal to upright position. You may also be asked to change positions (for example, lying on your side, back, or stomach) at intervals during the procedure.
    • You may be asked to hold your breath at certain times during the procedure. This is in order to obtain clear images that aren’t blurry.
    • Standard X-Rays of the heart, lung, and abdomen may be performed first.
    • The Radiologist will ask you to take a mouth full of the barium drink. The barium is usually flavoured, although it may not be very pleasant tasting.
    • As you swallow the barium, the Radiologist will take single images, a series of images, or a video (fluoroscopy) to observe the barium moving through the pharynx.
    • You will be given another few mouths full of barium to swallow. Single images and/or a video (fluoroscopy) will be used to observe the barium's passage down the oesophagus.
    • The doctor performing the examination might give you a bicarbonate powder (similar to Eno) to swallow. This will turn fizzy in your stomach and result in some gas, which expands the stomach and aids in getting a clear picture.

    • For best results:
      • Cooperation with the Radiographer is essential to the success of the procedure.
  • After your Barium Meal

    • You should be able to go home as soon as the test is finished.
    • You can eat normally straight after any barium test.
    • Drink plenty of fluids.
    • The barium will make your stools white or pale until it has all been cleared from your gut.
    • The barium does not get absorbed into the body.  Therefore, it is rare for a barium test to cause any other complications or side-effects.

Barium Enema

  • General Information

    A Barium Enema is a special X-Ray examination of the large intestine, which includes the colon and rectum,

  • Before your Barium Enema

    • Inform your doctor if you have insulin-dependent diabetes, so that we can arrange for the best time for you to stop eating and for the test to be done.
    • Please arrive 15 minutes early to complete all the necessary paperwork.
    • You can also download the patient information form here. 

    • Special preparation needed:
      • Your bowels should be emptied using an enema or laxatives.
      • For 1 to 3 days before the test, you need to be on a clear liquid diet (you should only drink fluids on the day prior to your examination as well as on the day of your exam).
      • Take 2 Dulcolax tablets 2 evenings before the examination.
      • A day prior to the examination, you should drink Cleanprep or Coloprep which is available from your local pharmacy.
  • Let the Radiographer know

    • If there is any possibility that you might be pregnant.
    • If you've had a recent barium imaging or cholangiography (gall bladder) procedure, as this may interfere with obtaining an optimal X-Ray exposure of the upper GI area.
  • What to expect

    • The examination will be performed by a trained Radiographer and reported on by a Radiologist.
    • You will be positioned on an X-Ray table that can tilt you from a horizontal to upright position. You may also be asked to change positions (for example, lying on your side, back, or stomach) at intervals during the procedure.
    • You may be asked to hold your breath at certain times during the procedure. This is in order to obtain clear images that aren’t blurry.
    • You will be asked to turn onto your side. The Radiographer will gently insert a well-lubricated catheter (enema tube) into your rectum (this will be removed after all the images have been taken). 
    • The tube is connected to a bag that holds a liquid containing barium sulphate. This is a contrast material that highlights specific areas in the colon, creating a clear image.
    • The barium flows into your colon after which X-Ray images are taken. 
    • A small balloon at the tip of the enema tube may be inflated to help keep the barium inside your colon. The Radiographer monitors the flow of the barium on a screen. You will be asked to turn into different positions to accommodate the flow of the barium.
    • Sometimes a small amount of air is delivered into the colon to expand it.  This allows for even better images.  This test is called a Double Contrast Barium Enema.

    • For best results:
      • Cooperation with the Radiographer is essential to the success of the procedure.
  • After your Barium Enema

    • Once the Radiologist determines that enough images of the colon have been taken, the enema tube is removed.  You will be helped down from the table and directed to the restroom to evacuate the colon.  You will then return to the examination room for some additional images to  ensure that you have emptied your bowel sufficiently.
    • Drink plenty of fluids for the next several days to help prevent constipation. 
    • You may notice grey or white stools for several days after a Barium Enema as the remaining barium leaves your body.  Because barium can cause constipation (infrequent or difficult passage of stool), you may need to take a laxative as directed by your doctor when you return home to help remove any remaining barium.
    • If you feel severe abdominal pain or have a fever, bloody bowel movements, dizziness, or weakness, please call your doctor immediately.

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