What Happens During a Barium Swallow Esophagram?

During a barium swallow esophagram, medical staff straps the patient to a table that then tilts to an upright position to get x-rays of his heart, lungs and abdomen, according to eMedicineHealth. After the preliminary set of x-rays, the patient drinks a thick, chalky solution containing barium, and the table tilts to different angles to spread around the barium while the staff continues to take x-rays. Finally, the patient returns to a horizontal position for the final set of x-rays.

Throughout the procedure, the patient continues to swallow the barium preparation as the medical staff takes x-rays of him from different viewpoints, states eMedicineHealth. Barium is visible through x-ray photography, and this helps diagnose the digestive problems that cause the patient's symptoms. There are about 1 1/2 cups of the preparation, and it takes 30 to 60 minutes to swallow completely. Medical staff sometimes applies pressure to the patient's abdomen to spread the barium for better viewing.

The patient returns to a regular diet after the procedure, explains eMedicineHealth. During bowel movements in the following days, the patient's stool is typically chalky and pale. The patient should drink plenty of water and eat raw fruits and vegetables to prevent constipation during this time.