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Barium tests are used to help visualise parts of the gut (gastrointestinal tract) such as the oesophagus (gullet), stomach and small intestines (upper gut). The stomach, like other parts of the gut, does not show up well on ordinary X-rays, to allow a radiologist to diagnose small ulcers for example.
However, if the lining of the stomach is coated with barium, a white liquid that shows up on X-rays, and if the stomach is also distended by extra gas, which shows up black, then much greater detail is obtained. This is called a barium swallow.
If the gullet, or oesophagus, is examined at the same time, which it often is, then the examination is called a barium swallow and meal. If the examination is extended to look at the small bowel, then it is known as barium meal and follow through.
Barium swallow test
Barium swallow meal test