Barium administered for a CT scan typically leaves the body through normal bowel movements, although some patients may have to drink extra fluids or take a laxative to get rid of the barium. A laxative is useful after two to three days of no bowel movements, suggests doctors from HealthTap.
Barium can cause constipation, which is why patients may need to resort to a laxative to rid themselves of barium sulfate contrast material, notes doctors from HealthTap. The barium sulfate is administered to make it easier for doctors to spot damaged or diseased areas of the intestine, stomach or esophagus on CT or X-ray images, explains MedlinePlus. Patients may take the barium sulfate by mouth or in the form of an enema, depending on the physician's orders. Patients may also receive instructions to consume only clear liquids or to refrain from eating or drinking all together after a particular time on the day of their scan.
Taking barium sulfate can cause side effects, such as nausea, diarrhea, constipation, abdominal cramps, vomiting or pale skin, states MedlinePlus. Other potential side effects are weakness, ringing in the ears and sweating. Signs of a more serious reaction to the contrast material may include confusion, hives, itching, a rapid heartbeat, red skin, throat tightening or swelling, bluish skin or trouble breathing.