Question from a student: What is Barium used for?

Barium Sulfate (BaSO4) is the most common positive contrast used in the radiology department. It is radiopaque and appears white on the x-ray film or image. Barium is used in many of the exams that visualize the digestive tract. Several exams that we use barium in are the Esophagram (visualizes the swallowing mechanism, esophagus, and proximal portion of the stomach), an Upper G.I. (visualizes the esophagus, stomach, and the emptying of the stomach), the Small Bowel exam (visualizes the entire small bowel), the barium enema (visualizes the large intestine).
Barium Sulfate coats the lining of the G.I. system and never dissolves in water. It makes abnormalities easier to see. Barium Sulfate is a chalk like powder substance and is mixed with water before used for exams. We use thin barium that is mixed with water in a 1:1 ratio and has the consistency of a thin milkshake. We also use thick barium that is mixed with water in a 3:1 or 4:1 ratio, three parts barium sulfate to 1 part water. The thicker barium is used to visualize the esophagus and stomach better because of how well it coats the mucosal lining.
Barium Sulfate mixtures should not be used if any chance exists that the patient has a perforation. You do not want the Barium to escape into the peritoneal cavity.
If a patient has had an exam using Barium Sulfate they should drink the recommended 8 glasses of water a day to help keep the Barium moving through the G.I. system. Constipation, as well as white stools can occur after an exam using Barium.

Esophagram: you can visualize the esophagus and the stomach filling on the patient’s left side

UGI: In this image you can see the stomach lined with barium, and the barium moving through the pyloric sphincter into the Duodenum of the small intestine.

Small Bowel Series: In this image you can see all of the small intestine approximately 7 meters, or 23 feet.

Barium Enema: In this image you can see the large intestine. The small intestine empties into the large intestine on the patient’s lower right quadrant (pt’s right is our left, as if the pt. is looking at us) it starts with the ascending colon, hepatic flexure, transverse colon, splenic flexure, descending colon, and sigmoid colon.

Hope that helps :)
~The X-Ray Chic

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2 Responses to “Question from a student: What is Barium used for?”

  1. Hugh says:


  2. Cat says:

    All I need is the uses for baruim. Please state less info and more uses please!

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