A barium, or small bowel follow through, is a good test to indicate the presence of an obstruction, blockage, or pockets of air in the small bowel, as well as determining the rate at which the small bowel moves barium.


The patient will be asked to remain on a clear liquid diet the day before the test. He/she may also be asked to use enemas the night before the test in order to ensure that the small bowel is clear of food which may interfere with test results. The morning of the test, it is usually recommended that diabetics only take 1/2 of their insulin. Other necessary medications may be taken with a small sip of water.

Before the test:

The patient will be given approximately three cups of barium to drink. Barium is a chalky like substance which shows up under a fluoroscope to help identify the location and type of problem that may exist.

During the test:

While laying on his/her back, images will be taken at specific intervals as the barium empties from the stomach, into the small bowel, and throughout the colon. Depending on the rate of emptying, this test could take anywhere from 1-5+ hours.

After the procedure:

The patient may resume normal activities. It is important to try to have bowel movements as early as possible because the barium can become hard and difficult to pass with time. The stool may be white for several days following the procedure until the barium has passed.


Results are typically available the next day. Abnormal results may show a blockage, obstruction, tumor, abnormality of air/gas pattern, or slow lower GI motility.