This week I had a barium swallow at the hospital, I was really nervous before it so I thought I’d share my experience.
So, over the last couple of months, I have been struggling with problems with my throat, in the past when I said this the GP would refer me to speech and language. This was because I have neurological issues that have not been investigated and were why at first, they thought I had multiple sclerosis. Sometimes my mouth and throat work out of synch meaning that my swallowing is affected and leads to choking among other symptoms.
However, this time my throat has an area that has stabbing pains, sore throat, and the feeling that food is collecting in my throat. The first test I had was a camera down my nose into my throat, but they could see nothing there. Of course, they wanted to just discharge me, but I stood up for myself and was referred for a barium swallow.
What is a barium swallow?
A barium swallow is a procedure that uses a fluoroscopy to check for problems in the upper GI tract. This includes the mouth, throat, oesophagus, stomach, and the first part of the small intestine. A fluoroscopy is a type of x-ray that images the body in real time using barium which makes parts of the body show up clearly on an x ray.
I was taken to a changing room and asked to get into a hospital gown, as asked I bought my slippers and dressing gown. I was then walked using my rollator, into the x ray room where the test would be done. The staff were very kind and answered any questions I had as well as explaining everything clearly.
One thing that did upset me was when the doctor started to quiz me about whether I work, why I do not and how I became sick. They asked if it was long covid and a few other questions, this was all that made me uncomfortable though. Unfortunately, this happens a lot people always want to ask questions about how you got sick or why you are using an aid.
I was then asked to step up onto a platform and they added a handle so I could hold on a little, this was not very accessible though we made it work I did not feel very safe. I was then given a cup of white liquid and told to stand still and when asked to take a drink.
This was repeated a few times while they moved the x ray machine or asked me to change position slightly. The barium itself did not taste as bad as I imagined, I do have funny reactions to the texture of things, but it wasn’t chalky or thick, so we were ok. Also, the flavour was not too bad they have definitely been working on flavours in hospitals and I’m very glad of that!
Then they tilted the whole platform I was stood against, so I was laying flat, I do have vertigo so this was not pleasant at all! But I managed to ground myself and ignore the strange feeling so they could take pictures of my stomach.
They whole test did not last too long thankfully, and I was soon getting changed back into my clothes and heading home with my husband. I did fall asleep on the way home, but overall, I didn’t react too badly to the experience thankfully!
Tips for having a barium swallow:
- Get there early – we did arrive a little late because as always trying to find a parking space and find the way to the department was hell. Most hospitals are like a labyrinth with nowhere to park so get there early.
- Clothing – wear clothing that is easy to take off and put back on again and are comfortable in case the test makes your stomach swell.
- Sweets – take some sweets you can suck with you, before the test you cannot eat or drink for 6hours a sweet to suck afterwards is essential! It stopped me getting sick from the taste the drink left behind and got me home so I could have a nice cup of tea and lots of water.
- Drink plenty afterwards – it’s very important to drink a lot and flush the barium out of your body so be prepared to drink and wee when you get home!
- Seasickness – many of us with vertigo use aid such as wristbands for seasickness these come in handy when you are tilted on the table.
Overall, the test was not as bad, nor did it take as long as I thought it would take, plus I got to see my insides on a screen! So, if like me you had a barium swallow ordered by your doctor, I hope this blog post makes you feel a little less nervous.