What Is a Barium Swallow After Gastric Bypass

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Do you need to have a barium swallowing test? Maybe you are wondering just what is a barium swallow? I’m here to tell you all about it.

Last week I spoke to a specialist regarding my gastric bypass procedure which I had back in 2016. If you have followed my weight loss journey, you may be aware that I had a RNY Gastric Bypass in an attempt to lose weight and become healthier.

My weight loss started off well. I lost quite a lot of weight when I first had the operation. During the first 10 days I found myself back in hospital and was nil by mouth, and I naturally lost a lot of weight.

During the following three to four months, whilst on the liquid, soft food and mashed food stages, I lost more weight. However, once I began solid foods, things changed.

Despite what professionals told me “should” happen, I was able to eat much more than expected. I was unable to lose weight. Over the months I have regained my weight which is honestly quite depressing.

After two and a half years, I have spoken to a bariatric nurse and she suggested I have a barium swallow procedure.

Scale with tape measure and apple on top of it.

What Is a Barium Swallow?

A barium swallow is an examination of the oesophagus, (or gullet) and the stomach. The purpose of this examination is to enable the specialist to see what happens when you swallow.

In the case of bariatric patients, such as myself, who have had a gastric bypass or other weight loss surgery, barium swallows can be very useful in providing information about the size of the stomach.

A barium swallow can help the patient to know whether the stomach has stretched since surgery and work out possible reasons why a gastric bypass was unsuccessful.

In my case, it could be that my stomach was never made small enough in the first place, hence the reason I have always been able to eat a lot more than expected.

Or my stomach may have stretched, although I don’t see this as the case as my issues began as soon as I went onto solid food. Alternatively, I could simply be eating the wrong foods and not using my tool (the pouch) correctly.

The bariatric nurse said it would be good to know what the reason is for my lack of weight loss and weight regain in order to find a way to get back on track.

White plate with a sad face drawn on it.

Barium Swallow Prep and Procedure

When having a barium swallow after gastric bypass, you will be asked to go nil by mouth for 4 hours before the test.

At your appointment, you will be given the barium liquid to drink. This liquid will coat the oesophagus, the tube between the mouth and stomach. The liquid will also line the stomach.

What does a barium swallow taste like? It is thick, chalky, and the consistency of a milkshake. It’s usually sweetened and artificially flavored with chocolate or strawberry to make it easier to swallow. 

How long does a barium swallow take? The imaging process will take up to 15 minutes. The barium swallow liquid is visible on an x-ray and you will be taken to an x-ray machine where you will lay flat on a table. The table will then be tilted while images are taken.

After the Barium Swallow

After your x-ray you can return to your daily activities. Make sure you drink lots of fluids over the next 24 hours. Your bowel motions may be pale in colour for a short period due to the barium.

Your specialist will be able to look at your x-rays and the results to determine what is going on in the stomach area.

How Much Is a Barium Swallow?

In the UK, the barium swallow cost is around £400. Personally, this is a lot of money to pay and therefore I will be asking my NHS specialist if I qualify for the procedure as a NHS patient.

If the answer is no, then I have a decision to make. Save up and find out exactly what is going on… or don’t.

This is something I need time to consider. I really do want to know what is going on. I have been told the procedure didn’t work as planned but it would be good to have a real medical explanation.

The bariatric nurse said if my stomach is not the right size or it has been stretched then there is the option for gastric bypass revision.

However if it’s a matter of my steroid medication making me hungry and not eating enough of the right foods then the best course of action would be to see a specialist dietician.

I have seen a dietician for the past two years and it really has not helped. I followed the guidelines but was always still hungry.

I would be very interested to know the results of a barium swallow and know what is going on inside my body.

So for now I will wait for my next NHS appointment in 3-4 months and see what the bariatric specialist says.

That will give me time to decide whether a barium swallow is what I need to help work out what went wrong with my weight loss surgery. 

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      1. Hi Angela.
        I have had exactly the same problem, had my bypass in February, in Poland. I’m looking into having a CT scan, would that not show up whether the stomach is divided? I want to know either way like you.

  1. I am 10 months post RNY and have been having the same issues. I have always been hungry, able to eat way more than the suggested amount and so i just had my barium swallow test this morning. I wont know the results for a few days but the radiologist said everything looked ok. Nothing out of the ordinary. But he did say that my stomach does empty pretty quickly with just liquids.

    1. Hi, hopefully you see this after posting some time ago. Can you share what your results were?

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