A barium swallow test is a common procedure that is used to determine the root cause of painful or difficult swallowing, according to emedicinehealth. It may also be ordered to diagnose unexplained abdominal pain, bloody vomit or unexplained weight loss.
During a barium swallow test, a patient must swallow a prescribed amount of barium sulfate, according to emedicinehealth. Barium sulfate is a metallic compound, and it shows up readily on X-rays. During the test, a patient swallows the barium sulfate, and it appears on the X-ray. The metallic compound allows doctors to see the internal structures of a patient's esophagus and stomach to diagnose a myriad of disorders.