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Barium Sulfate (Diagnostic)


  • Diagnostic aid, radiopaque, gastrointestinal disorders


Barium sulfate is a radiopaque agent. Radiopaque agents are used to help diagnose certain medical problems. Since radiopaque agents are opaque to (block) x-rays, the areas of the body in which they are localized will appear white on the x-ray film. This creates the needed distinction, or contrast, between one organ and other tissues. The contrast will help the doctor see any special conditions that may exist in that organ or part of the body.

Barium sulfate is taken by mouth or given rectally by enema. If taken by mouth, it makes the esophagus, the stomach, and/or the small intestine opaque to the x-rays so that they can be "photographed". If it is given by enema, the colon and/or the small intestine can be seen and photographed by x-rays.

The dose of barium sulfate will be different for different patients and depends on the type of test. The strength of the suspension and tablet is determined by how much barium they contain. Different tests will require a different strength and amount of suspension (some may require the tablet form), depending on the age of the patient, the contrast needed, and the x-ray equipment used.

Barium sulfate is to be used only by or under the direct supervision of a doctor.

Before Using This Medicine

In deciding to use a diagnostic test, any risks of the test must be weighed against the good it will do. This is a decision you and your doctor will make. Also, test results may be affected by other things. For barium sulfate, the following should be considered:

Allergies- Tell your doctor if you have ever had any unusual or allergic reaction to barium sulfate. Also, tell your doctor if you are allergic to any other substances, such as foods, preservatives, or dyes.

Pregnancy- X-rays of the abdomen are usually not recommended during pregnancy. This is to avoid exposing the fetus to radiation. Be sure you have discussed this with your doctor.

Breast-feeding- Barium sulfate does not pass into the breast milk. This medicine has not been reported to cause problems in nursing babies.

Children- Although there is no specific information comparing use of barium sulfate in children with use in other age groups, this agent is not expected to cause different side effects or problems in children than it does in adults.

Older adults- This contrast agent has been used in older people and has not been shown to cause different side effects or problems in them than it does in younger adults.

Other medical problems- The presence of other medical problems may affect the use of barium sulfate. Make sure you tell your doctor if you have any other medical problems, especially:
  • Asthma, hay fever, or other allergies (history of)-If you have a history of these conditions, the risk of having a reaction, such as an allergic reaction to the additives in the barium sulfate preparation, is greater
  • Cystic fibrosis-The risk of blockage in the small bowel is greater
  • Dehydration-Barium sulfate may cause severe constipation
  • Intestinal blockage or perforation-Barium sulfate may make this condition worse

Preparation for This Test

Your doctor may have special instructions for you in preparation for your test. If you have not received such instructions or if you do not understand them, check with your doctor in advance.

For some tests your doctor may tell you not to eat after 8 the evening before the test. You may be allowed to drink small amounts of clear liquids until midnight; however, check first with your doctor. For other tests you may need to eat meals free of fiber and bulk the day before the test. You may also need to use a laxative.

Precautions While Using This Medicine

Make sure to drink plenty of liquids after the test. Otherwise, barium sulfate may cause severe constipation.

Side Effects of This Medicine

Along with its needed effects, a radiopaque agent may cause some unwanted effects. Although not all of these side effects may occur, if they do occur they may need medical attention.

Check with your doctor immediately if any of the following side effects occur:

  • Rare
    • Bloating;  constipation (severe, continuing) ;  cramping (severe);  nausea or vomiting;  stomach or lower abdominal pain;  tightness in chest or troubled breathing;  wheezing 

Other side effects may occur that usually do not need medical attention. These side effects may go away as your body adjusts to this agent. However, check with your doctor if any of the following side effects continue or are bothersome:

  • More common
    • Constipation or diarrhea;  cramping 

Other side effects not listed above may also occur in some patients. If you notice any other effects, check with your doctor.

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Last updated: Tue, 06 Jan 2009 00:20:03 GMT