The esophagram is a study that is completed in radiology. The test evaluates the esophagus. The esophagus is the tube that goes from the throat to the stomach. This will help your doctor identify possible problems and the best treatment.  


Preparing for the Test

  • Adults - No solid foods 4 hours prior to the procedure. Adult patients may be on a clear liquid diet 2 hours prior to the procedure. Give medicines at the regular times with water any time. 
  • Children - No solid foods 6 hours prior to procedure. A clear liquid diet any time prior to the procedure is fine. Give medicines at the regular times with water.
  • Infants - Do not eat or drink 4 hours prior to procedure. Your child should be thirsty and ready to drink upon arrival for the barium swallow study. Bring a special cup or sippy cup your child likes to use. If your child drinks best from a bottle, bring a bottle.
  • Give medicines at the regular times with a small amount of water.
  • Wear clothing that you can remove from the waist up. You will be given a gown to wear.
  • The esophagram barium swallow uses x-rays and anyone who is pregnant cannot be in the room during the x-ray.


During the Test

Before the study you/your child will need to remove all clothing and jewelry from the waist up. You will be given a hospital gown to wear. The study is completed in a radiology (x-ray/fluoroscopy) room. If a child is having the barium swallow, a family member or caregiver will be encouraged to stay in the x-ray room to make it easier for the child. The radiologist or a Radiology Practitioner Assistant (RPA) operates the fluoroscopy equipment and takes images of the esophagus.  The radiologist provides a medical diagnosis for your physician.

You/your child will be asked to drink 1 to 2 cups of barium. The barium is a contrast material that makes liquids show up on the image-screen as gray or black. You/your child will drink the barium while standing up and while lying down.

If you have any questions or don't understand the instructions please ask.


Barium Taste

Barium is heavy and has a chalky taste. Children and adults may dislike the taste.  Children under 12 months often like the taste of barium.What should you do after the test?

Barium rarely causes any problems. It passes through the digestive system. Drink extra fluids for 12 to 24 hours after the study. If you/your child become constipated after the study, drink more liquids and eat more fruit. If the constipation continues, talk with your doctor.


Length of the Test

The esophagram will take about 30 minutes. Some of the time is taken preparing for the study.


Day of the Test

Your appointment is in radiology. Radiology is in on the third floor of the Smith Building. On the day of your test, first report to the Admissions Desk just inside the Main Entrance. Admissions will direct you to the appropriate location for your test.

If you have questions, or will not be able to make your appointment, please call: 303.398.1611.

Get directions to and see a campus map of National Jewish Health.


This information has been approved by Will Cook, ARRT, MA (September 2014).