Estimated time: One to two hours (Most of the estimated time will be spent waiting for passage of the barium Anatomy involved: Small bowel Performed by: Radiologist (physician), technologist, fluoroscopy assistantPreparation: No food, liquids or oral medications from 12 midnight to time of examination. Patients with ostomies having GI studies should bring extra bags.
The Small Bowel Series (SBS) is an X-ray and fluoroscopic examination of most of your small bowel, an approximately 15-foot long tube connecting your stomach to your colon. To better delineate the small bowel during the procedure, a contrast medium or dye called barium is ingested which fills the small bowel. Note that the liquid barium has somewhat of a chalky taste masked by added flavors such as strawberry.
Before the exam begins, a technologist will take one or two X-rays of your abdomen - a "before barium" picture. After these films are checked, you will be instructed to drink barium and will then have X-rays at specific timed intervals to follow the progression of the barium through the small bowel until it reaches the large bowel. The time required to accomplish this varies for each individual depending on how rapidly the digestive process functions. A technologist will call you from the waiting area each time a film is due to be taken. When the barium has made its way to the end of the small bowel, you may be asked to return to a fluoroscopy room for a brief period so that the radiologist may visualize your most distant small bowel and take another X-ray. Using fluoroscopy, the radiologist is able to view the structures being examined in real time and take X-rays of particular areas of interest. The examination will then be complete and results will be interpreted by the radiologist and forwarded to your referring physician.
After the exam you can resume a regular diet and take orally administered medications unless instructed otherwise by your doctor. The barium may color stools gray or white for 48 to 72 hours after the procedure. You are encouraged to drink additional water for this time period to help pass the barium. In rare instances, the barium can cause temporary constipation, which is usually well treated with an over-the-counter laxative.