What is an Esophagram?

An esophagram test is an inspection of the esophagus. The test is conducted as a part of a series of tests carried out on the upper and the middle regions of the GI tract. This test is performed using fluoroscopy, barium, and x-rays. Since barium is a contrast material, it is used as a marker. The patient is asked to swallow the barium and as the barium travels down the esophageal passage, the path is mapped.

The esophagram test is also known as a barium swallow x-ray test or barium esophagram test. This is because it is conducted with the use of a contrast material known as barium. Contrast materials are used in a number of different medical imaging tests. These materials are used so that they mark out the lining of various hollow organs or tubes in the body. When the lining is clearly marked, it becomes easier for the doctor to see any abnormalities which may appear as bumps or depressions in the wall of the organ that is being scanned. The esophagram test involves the use of this type of contrast followed by an imaging scan that is conducted of this area. This imaging scan is often an x-ray, although CT scans may also be used.

What are some common uses of the procedure?

The test is usually performed when a person displays specific symptoms such as difficulty in swallowing, incessant vomiting, pain in the esophagus and regurgitation. This test can also help detect tumors, ulcers, and other abnormalities in the esophageal tract.

The esophagus is a highly motile organ which helps in the swallowing of food. However, if the motility of the organ is affected due to a disease or any other abnormality, there may be problems in swallowing food and keeping it down.

What takes place during the procedure?

In some cases, a few gas producing crystals are added to the barium before the patient is made to swallow it. As the barium moves, it is tracked through the body. Though this entire procedure is used to examine the health of the upper portion of the gastrointestinal tract, the esophagram consists of only an examination of the mouth, throat and the esophagus.

How do I prepare for the exam?

No preparation is needed.