What Is Esophagography?

Medically Reviewed on 2/9/2023
What Is Esophagography?
Esophagography helps diagnose certain esophageal disorders.

Esophagography or esophagram is an X-ray performed to examine the esophagus. It does not just take pictures like a normal X-ray; esophagography is a fluoroscopic X-ray exam that takes X-rays as a live video. This is also known as a barium swallow test. After a person swallows barium sulfate, the barium coats the throat and esophagus as it moves down the stomach, showing changes in the throat, esophagus, and stomach on X-rays.

What are the uses of esophagography?

Esophagography helps diagnose the changes or conditions in the throat, esophagus, stomach, and upper part of the small intestine. These conditions include the following:

  • Ulcers
  • Polyps
  • Blockages
  • Tissue changes
  • Structural defects
  • Inflammation
  • Muscular disorders

Esophagography also helps diagnose esophageal disorders, such as:

How to prepare for esophagography

The following are the precautions to be taken before esophagography:

  • Before the barium swallow test, your healthcare provider may ask you to fast (avoid eating or drinking) after midnight on the night before the procedure.
  • You are advised to avoid swallowing anything that covers the lining of the esophagus (avoid smoking, eating candies, and chewing gums).
  • Make sure that your healthcare provider must be aware of any substances (such as barium) that you are allergic to.
  • This procedure should be avoided in pregnant women planning to get pregnant because the radiation may be harmful to the unborn baby, which may result in birth defects and intestinal problems.

How is esophagography done?

Esophagography involves the following steps:

  • You will change into a hospital gown when you arrive for the exam.
  • The pelvic area is covered by a lead shield to protect it from the unwanted radiation
  • You may make to stand, sit, and lie down on the X-ray table and may be asked to change positions during the procedure.
  • You may be given a thick, chalky, chocolate, or strawberry-flavored solution (which makes it easier to drink) that contains barium.
  • When you swallow the barium, your healthcare provider may notice the barium moving down from the throat to the upper gastrointestinal tract.
  • During this procedure, you will be asked to hold your breath for few times and the pictures are recorded for further purposes.


GERD is the back up of stomach acid into the esophagus. See Answer

What are the contraindications for esophagography?

The following are the contraindications for esophagography:

  • Pregnancy or planning to get pregnant
  • Allergy to barium
  • Perforation in the esophagus or intestines
  • Severe constipation
  • Severe difficulty in swallowing, which may accidentally result in barium moving into the lungs

What are the side effects of esophagography?

Side effects of esophagography include:

How to manage constipation after esophagography

After the barium swallow test, the stool may appear white or lighter in color. It happens because of barium, which has not completely been expelled from the body.

Additionally, the barium swallow test may cause constipation, which can be managed by the following:

  • Taking plenty of fluids.
  • Consuming high-fiber diets.
  • Taking laxatives.

Health Solutions From Our Sponsors

Medically Reviewed on 2/9/2023
Image Source: iStock image